Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that is celebrated to commemorate the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem. At the time, the Maccabees, a group of Jewish warriors, revolted against the Seleucid Empire.
Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, by lighting candles each night on the Menorah.
This tradition is why it is also called the Festival of Lights. People partake in religious rituals including: daily readings of scripture, recitation of psalms from the Old Testament composing of sacred songs, almsgiving, singing of a special hymn, eating treats fried in oil, giving gifts to kids, and playing dreidel with their friends and family.
This year Hanukkah is occurring from December 10 to December 18. Due to the pandemic, people have to social distance and follow all rules and regulations officially stated by the government.
HANUKKAH IN NORTH AMERICA
This year, in Utah, the Jewish community decided to start their Hanukkah celebration by lighting the state's tallest menorah and holding Utah's first menorah-topped car parade. The event is free and open to the community, but due to the pandemic, guests will be asked to observe from their vehicles.
In Los Angeles, California, the candle will be lit nightly at sunset by farmers market staff. On December 8, a drive-through event was held consisting of a 30-minute contactless, car-based sound and light experience. It included a dancing dreidel light show, a firework finale, and the world premiere of an animated short film called “The Broken Candles”.
In New York, there will be a giant lighting ceremony in accordance with social distancing rules and guidelines made by public health officers.
In Miami, Florida, a seashell menorah will be lit up and on display for everyone to see.
In Quebec, small gatherings at Christmas will be allowed but gathering during Hanukkah will remain prohibited. Jewish Canadians appreciate the government’s efforts to balance the imperatives of communal health, but they still hope that the liberties for those who celebrate Christmas will be shared equitably with other faiths.
HANUKKAH IN OCEANIA
Some state governments, such as the South Wales government, have issued public statements to people celebrating Hanukkah to be aware of the pandemic situation. In Watson Bay NSW, JFW (Jews For Jesus) have arranged a Hanukkah party. There is parking at the bus stops right in front of the grounds of St. Peters. The scenery is beautiful; the fellowship will be worth your time!
HANUKKAH IN EUROPE
In countries such as Sweden, France, and Ireland, travel restrictions are still in play. It is likely that there will be large gathering restrictions (for example, pubs will be closed after a certain hour). In France specifically, people are only allowed to leave their homes for essential services, school, and one hour of exercise. In Italy, there can only be celebrations amongst close family members. In the UK, they are currently discussing ways to celebrate Christmas, but there is no known lift of restrictions for Hanukkah. Berlin (Germany) on the other hand, has taken initiative and has decided to light its large Hanukkah candlesticks, including one that is 10 feet while the public can watch it virtually.
With the recent increases in COVID cases, it is safe to say that most of Europe will not be doing large celebrations for Hanukkah, even with the planned ease of restrictions for Christmas (as it will be at the end of the month).
HANUKKAH IN ASIA
Israel, an important country for Jewish culture and celebration, has been deciding on COVID restrictions as of November 30th. The recent increase of cases has been unsettling for the government. They are deciding whether or not to restrict it to only celebrating amongst individual families instead of larger parties. Discussion is needed as it is an extremely important holiday for Jewish citizens.
In South Asia, there has been a great influx in coronavirus cases. India has the second most coronavirus cases in the world. They have low testing rates as well, hinting that the numbers may not be accurate. As there are very few populations of Jewish people in South Asia as a whole, they do not have any big celebrations for Hanukkah as of recently. Even though people go outside, it is recommended to spend it at home to keep loved ones safe.
HANUKKAH IN AFRICA
There has been a rise in cases in Africa as well within the past couple of months. South Africa has tightened its restrictions right before the holidays. Places in the area now have a nighttime curfew. Large gatherings, such as post-funeral gatherings, are either greatly discouraged or prohibited (depending on the area one lives in). It is advised to wear masks whenever going outside.
This year, Hanukkah will be very different compared to what those who celebrate are used to experiencing. Governments are focusing more on Christmas and New Year’s Eve than other celebrations, which is why restrictions are not lifted for Hanukkah. It is safer to celebrate the holiday at home with close family members. Many activities can still be done as a small group to continue the festivity. If you have family living across the world, consider using a virtual platform, like Facetime or Zoom to see your friends and family! Hope it is a safe, joyous occasion for all!
Written by Kalash and Sobiah Khan
Edited by Jacklyn Chuang, Celine Feyre, and Alysa Monteagudo