No matter how you choose to spell it — Chanukah, Hanukkah, or חֲנוּכָּה in Hebrew —  the beloved holiday is celebrated by Jewish families around the world in the Hebrew month of Kislev (which, depending on the year, can fall anytime from late fall to winter). Also known as The Festival of Lights, this special week commemorates the victory of the Judean army —  the Maccabees — over tyrannical Greek rule around 200 B.C, and the miracles that occurred then.

Today, Jewish people around the world celebrate for eight days and eight nights by reciting blessings and lighting menorah candles, playing games of dreidel (spinning tops), eating sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancakes), singing songs, and spending time with friends and family. (And yes, lots of presents!) But, each country has its own unique Hanukkah customs, foods, and overall flair. You’ll also find that while people may celebrate Hanukkah a little bit differently across the globe, the light, faith, and spirit of the holiday remain universal. So, if you’d like to experience a Hanukkah like no other, check out some of these unique Hanukkah celebrations around the world. Oh, and chag sameach!

Mumbai, India

Hanukkah celebrations around the world - mumbai

[Image above “IMG_20161229_185525” by Chabad Lubavitch on Flickr – licensed under CC by 2.0]

While a short walking distance of the Taj Mahal may not come to mind first as a place to celebrate Hannukah, many travelers take cheap international flights to Mumbai just to celebrate The Festival of Lights. When you arrive, you’ll have the opportunity to learn all about the small Jewish community in Mumbai with a local guide. While we believe the first Jews to live in this area may have been Judean traders, more Jews arrived after the Second Temple’s destruction. Take a tour of the city’s 10 synagogues to appreciate their architectural beauty and rich history. Watch the lighting of the menorah in front of the Gateway of India. Interestingly enough, you won’t see wax-covered candles at this affair. Instead, you’ll find wicks dipped in coconut oil. You’ll also want to treat yourself to the milk-based treat enhanced with sweet fruits, called barfi.  

New York City, New York

Hanukkah Celebrations Around the World - New York

Did you know that the Big Apple is home to the world’s largest menorah? You can find it in front of the Plaza Hotel on 59th Street in Manhattan, and you can watch the lighting ceremony or choose to head to the one in Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. Each one stands at about 32 feet tall and weighs about 4,000 pounds!  Get competitive by heading to the Major League Dreidel, where you’ll hear live Jewish music played during the event. If you work up an appetite, treat yourself to some gelt (chocolate coins) in New York City. A great place to get them is Li-Lac, which is the oldest chocolate house in the city. You’ll find tons of Hanukkah events around the city — and delicious doughnuts too!

Jerusalem, Israel

Hanukkah Celebrations Around the World - Jerusalem

While there are many Hanukkah celebrations around the world, observing the holiday in Jerusalem is an experience you’ll never forget. Listen to the inspirational sounds of the Jews in Jerusalem raise their voices in unison to sing Maoz Tzur, telling the story of the struggles of their ancestors in ancient Greece. If you’re in Israel during this time, you won’t want to miss the Hanukkah Torch Relay. There, you’ll watch as runners pass an Olympic-style torch starting in Modiin and ending with the chief rabbi lighting a giant menorah on the Western Wall. Finish your trip to the Holy City by taking a walking tour to see how different families display their menorahs in unique cutouts on the sides of their homes.  

You may also enjoy: Check Out These Worldwide Chanukah Celebrations!

Rome, Italy

Hanukkah Celebrations Around the World - Rome

Start your visit to Rome by seeing the menorah at Piazza Bologna. Then, dine your way through Rome’s Jewish Quarter. Try the fried avocado, called carciofi alla giudia, which is the perfect way to celebrate that the oil lasted eight days instead of just one. Another food that you’ll want to taste is the small fried balls of dough sweetened with warm honey, called precipizi, which pair perfectly with a glass of wine. On the last night of Hanukkah, join the crowds to watch the lighting of the 20-foot-tall menorah. And you won’t have to worry about going hungry; go out and join the drinking and eating fun as hundreds take to the streets to celebrate.  

London, England 

Hanukkah celebrations around the world - London

[Image above “Trafalgar Square Menorah -3” by Chabad Lubavitch on Flickr – licensed under CC by 2.0]

London’s Trafalgar Square is the perfect place to celebrate Hanukkah as you can watch the lighting of the giant, triangular menorah. Visit the Jewish Museum London to see their fascinating collection of Hanukkah lamps, including one made from a World War I shell. Take a self-directed walking tour of London’s East End, where you can see the famous Battle for Cable Street and get bagels at iconic bakeries along Fournier Street. 

San Francisco, California

In 1975, the Golden City became the first one outside of Jerusalem to hold a public menorah-lighting ceremony. When you arrive in San Francisco, head to Union Square on the first day of Hanukkah to participate in family activities and watch the lighting of the menorah. Best of all, you’ll get to see the beam of light shoot a mile high off of the menorah as the rabbi calls people of all faiths to join together in unity.  

Are there any other Hanukkah celebrations around the world have you enjoyed? Tell us in the comments below!

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About The Author

Gabby Teaman is a content writer who loves writing (of course!), editing, food, and the Oxford comma. When she’s not writing for Fareportal, she can be found Snapchatting videos of her puppy, blasting show tunes, or watching Netflix, all while trying to read everything in sight.