Traveler’s Advent Calendar: Chanukah, Jewish Christmases

Today we open the door of this Traveler’s Advent Calendar with a holiday that is not Christian but deserves our attention: Chanukah, the Jewish celebration also known as the Feast of Lights.

In The Travel Blog we have written a lot about the Jewish people, their celebrations and the cultural importance they have for the world. That’s why at this time we didn’t want to miss one of the most important.

What is Chanukah?

If you like extensive celebrations, this is yours. Chanukah lasts for a total of 8 days beginning on the Jewish calendar of kislev and ending on the first two days of tevet.

If you made a mess with the months and days, I must tell you that in the Gregorian calendar this festivity takes place in the month of December, usually ending on the 22nd.

Chanukah celebrates the reopening of the temple of Jerusalem thanks to the help of Charlemagne who liberated the city from the Persians.

Menorá en la mesa de una casa.

After some time the disputes over the territory led the Greek king Antiochus IV to prohibit Judaism. Wars and fights didn’t take long to appear and lasted three years.

After the last battle the Jews arrived at the temple and managed to light the candlestick for a total of eight days when the oil they had for it only gave for one.

These eight days are those that symbolize the triumph of the Jewish people and therefore the tradition commands that a candle is lit progressively each day in a nine-armed candelabra called menorah or januquía.

How Chanukah is celebrated

We are travelers and we like to learn, but we also like to participate and learn about festivities and celebrations.

This Traveler’s Advent Calendar takes that into account and will tell you how you can celebrate Chanukah if you travel to a destination with a large Jewish presence.

Hombre judío caminando en una calle vacía.

As I told you before, the celebrations last a total of eight days. As it is a religious celebration the faithful attend daily to the synagogue of their city and each day a menorah candle is lit.

Tradition dictates eating potato fritters or stuffed cakes.

But perhaps the least religious part more important are two types of gifts they make to children:

The first is a four-sided perinola called dreidel. When Judaism was forbidden, the children played on the sidewalk while the men studied the torah inside the houses.

The second gift (a little more modern) are low-value coins or chocolate coins that are given to the smallest of the house. If the family is a little wealthier the coins can be something special and much more expensive.

Travel to Washington to see the giant menorah

If you were waiting for me to recommend Israel as a place to go to see the Chanukah celebration I’m sorry to go against you because I’m going to take you to a totally different place: Washington.

The capital of the United States is one of the most attractive places to be during janucá because for more than 40 years a giant menorah has been lit for eight days.

The National Menorah is impossible not to see if you are doing tourism in the city because it is located right in front of the White House and with its more than 9 meters I assure you that attracts attention.

Menorah frente a la Casa Blanca.

Other things to do in Washington

Compared to other cities like New York, Washington is a quiet place, but don’t let that quiet confuse you with a boring place.

Two of my favorite places in the city that I recommend you visit is the Space Museum where you can get close to American aerospace conquests or touch a piece of the moon.

My second favorite site is the Museum of the American Indian, a great place to explore the country’s indigenous history.

Other places I recommend you to see are a walk around the Washington Monument or a guided tour of the Capitol to get a closer look at the political life you may have seen in movies and television series.