OK, so first of all – the spelling. Some write it Hannukka, some Hanuka, some even go with Chanukka because of the Hebrew letter Het at the beginning of the word. There are many variations. So, for simplicity’s sake we’ll call it the Festival of Lights. Or, even better, donut week.
Oh yes, donuts. If you’re on a trip/vacation to Israel, this is probably going to be the only evidence of the Festival of Lights, the pure number of jam-filled donuts at every cafe, bakery and even kiosk.
The week (actually 8 nights) is largely celebrated by the lighting of candles each evening in the menorah, or Hannukiah, one light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. This is followed or preceded by the consumption of donuts. And over the last few years, the donuts have been getting better and better, thanks to some of the bakeries in Israel (take a look at the annual collection from Roladin – OMG – or just take our word for it regarding the top 3 places in Israel for donuts!).
Why donuts? Well, there is a custom of eating foods fried or baked in oil (preferably olive oil), as the original Hannukah miracle (the Maccabees successful revolt over their evil Hellenistic emperor) involved the discovery of a small flask of pure olive oil used by the Jewish High Priest. This small batch of oil was supposed to last one day, and instead lasted eight. So, not only are there donuts (known as sufganyot in Hebrew), there are also lots of potato pancakes (latkes).
The kids in Israel are largely on holiday over Hannukah week. So, in similar fashion to pantomime season and other Christmas shows, there are lots of kids festivals and shows to see, just to keep their parents happy of course.
My kids are still small enough not to know about these shows (phewww), but they can sure build a mean hannukiah…my son’s effort is in the image to the right.