How Chanukah Is Celebrated Around the World

Given the visibility of Chanukah around the world in the form of large public menorahs and its proximity to other winter holidays, such as Christmas and New Year, it may be surprising that this Jewish holiday is a relatively new one on the Jewish calendar.

There are many traditions that are typical of Chanukah through many eras and locations. The lighting of a menorah, eating fried foods to commemorate the miracle of the oil and reading special prayers that call to mind the bravery of the Maccabees are all features of Hanukkah observance.

One Chanukah tradition that can be observed worldwide is the public menorah lightings performed in major ceremonies. The basis for the public ceremonies is the injunction to publicize the miracle of the lights, which is an important part of the holiday.

Also, family and friends give each other gifts on Hanukkah, whether it is a piece of jewelry, a small amount of money, an article of clothing, a book, or Israeli investments. One way to invest in Israel is through the Jerusalem Portfolio, which can be started with a modest amount and will grow through the years.

Special Chanukah Traditions


Europe is a continent with significant cultural variation from country to country. As in many capital cities, London hosts a giant menorah that is lit in Trafalgar Square. Thousands of people gather to watch the lighting ceremony. In Germany, one of the largest public menorahs is positioned in front of Brandenburg Gate, once the site of Nazi rallies. The purpose is to symbolize the triumph of love over hate and light over darkness.

Paris also has a public menorah, but one area of France has a unique approach to lighting the menorah is Alsace which is close to the German border. The Jews of Alsace have a specific type of menorah that contains two rows of lights for a total of 16 rather than 8 candles. The purpose is that both a parent a child can light the menorah on one unit.

In Budapest, the Quarter6Quarter7 festival takes place on Hannukah and is meant to commemorate the former Jewish areas of the city. There are many musical and theatrical events as well as light shows and flash mobs.

Rome is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe dating back to 160 BC. Roman Jews light a 20-foot menorah in Piazza Barberini and eat fried dough balls smothered in honey along with a glass of wine.

Turkish Jews often sing songs in Ladino, a dialect spoken by Sephardi Jews. One well-known song is Ocho Candelas or eight candles. They eat something similar to potato latkes, a dish called burmelos.

The Middle East and Africa

Moroccan Jews eat orange flavored donuts on Chanukah called sfenj. On the seventh night of Hannukah, Yemenite Jews focus on the bravery of the Jewish women associated with the holiday, such as Chana who witnessed the martyrdom of her seven sons, and Judith, who killed the general Holofernes.

Algerian Jews place their menorahs on the walls near the doorway rather than in the windows. Iran, which has been home to a Jewish community for nearly 3,000 years, has many old synagogues and their specific traditions for Chanukah observance. In Ethiopia, the celebration of Chanukah is a new phenomenon. Although the Ethiopian Jewish community is a very old one, it was cut off from the rest of the Jewish world before the events of Chanukah occurred.

In Israel, sufganiot or jelly donuts can be seen everywhere, and children usually have an entire week off of school for Chanukah.


Jews settled in Kaifeng, China during the 8th and 9th centuries and traditionally, there was a huge Chanukah celebration in the city square. The number of Kaifeng Jews has dwindled through the centuries, but Jews in China still celebrate Hannukah with menorah lightings, fried foods, and playing dreidel.


There are 33 synagogues in India and a small but vital Jewish community. Instead of lighting waxed candles for Hannukah, Indian Jews light menorahs with coconut oil and eat milky, fruit-flavored treats called barfi.

The Americas


Jews in Santa Marta, Columbia celebrate Hanukkah similarly to Jews in other countries. However, instead of latkes or donuts, they eat fried plantain treats called patacones.

Canada and the United States

Chanukah in Canada and the United States is familiar to non-Jews because of the visibility of public and private menorahs and its proximity to Christmas. Jews in North America emphasize the gift-giving aspect of Hannukah more than in many other countries. Traditionally, Jews give chanukah gelt, small gifts of clothing or jewelry, or Israeli investments. One way to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah is to give the opportunity to Invest in Israel through the Jerusalem Portfolio.

About the Jerusalem Portfolio

The Jerusalem Portfolio is comprised of a fractional interest in 100 Israeli companies through a portfolio of professionally managed  ETFs. You can give the gift of the Jerusalem Portfolio for as little as $180. The recipient will be given a plaque with a beautiful and customized image of Jerusalem. Talk to our experts today about giving the Jerusalem Portfolio to a special young person as a bar or bat mitzvah gift, birthday, graduation, or other occasions.

October 03, 2021
The Jerusalem Portfolio