Sassy Mama Nicola of Jetlag and Mayhem gives us the full run down on celebrating the Jewish Festival of Lights right here in the ‘Kong!
Growing up, I would look at my non-Jewish friends with envy as they wrote letters to Santa and decorated their Christmas trees. Then my mum explained to me that Chanukah lasts for a whole 8 days, meaning 8 DAYS OF PRESENTS! That, combined with the Chanukah tradition of eating donuts, sealed it for me as my favourite Jewish festival!
What is Hanukkah/Chanukah?
This is the ‘festival of lights’ – a celebration of a miracle. Many moons ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Greeks, who sought to convert the Jews. However, a small group of devoted Jews known as the ‘Maccabees’ banded together to beat the Greeks and reclaim their Holy Temple. After they liberated the Holy Temple, they went to light the Menorah (a seven-branched candelabra) which was an important part of the religious service. Unfortunately they could only find a single sliver of olive oil to light it. Not only that, but it would take a whole eight days to produce new pure oil with which to light the menorah. Still they went ahead and lit the menorah and lo and behold, that tiny sliver of oil burned for eight days and eight nights. A miracle!
How do we celebrate Hanukkah?
Hanukkah runs for 8 days, and this year it falls between 27 November and 5December 2013.
We celebrate by lighting the Menorah, and a new candle is lit every night until all are shining brightly. It has become tradition to give presents at Hanukkah, with kids receiving a small gift every night for eight nights. One gift that’s often handed out is a dreidel – a four-sided spinning top.
What do we eat?
Jewish people love to eat, and as we are celebrating the miracle of the temple’s limited oil supply, this is reflected in the eating of fried foods! Hooray! This means donuts are on the menu, as are latkes, an amazing fried potato dish. If you’re looking to make a latke with a twist, try Nigella Lawson’s recipe for apple latkes!
It is also customary to hand out chocolate money to kids, also known as Chanukah Gelt.
Where To Buy Your Chanukah Goodies
Kosher Mart within the Jewish Community Centre at 70 Robinson Road, Mid Levels is your first port of call for filling your shopping basket! With products imported from the US, UK, Israel and Australia, in addition to quality locally-sourced food, the JCC aim to provide a full range of Kosher goodies all year round, but particularly during festivals and holidays. Their Challah bread is famously yummy and there are plenty of treats alongside all your Kosher grocery essentials. It’s also worth checking here for decorations, and other non-food supplies for your Hanukkah celebrations.
A restaurant and grocery store at 61 Connaught Road Central, Shalom Grill has a decent range of Kosher grocery products, mainly imported from Israel.
Buy your Menorahs and Dreidls at Kosher Mart, or check out Aishopping, an online store that ships worldwide from Israel and has an extensive range of decorations, Menorahs, Dreidels and Hannukah gifts.
Edible Arrangements even have a range of Chanukah fruit baskets!
Another option is to make your own decorations… or better yet, delegate this task to the kids! There’s a great range of Hanukkah ‘how-to’ videos here.
Celebrating Chanukah In Hong Kong
Chabad Hong Kong will hold the 28th Annual Giant Menorah Lighting at Chater Garden, Central on 1 December 2013. Admission is free, and the ceremony begins at 3.30pm with a carnival featuring a marching band, music, a bouncy castle and crafts to entertain the whole family before the lighting of the giant Menorah.
Also featuring at the ceremony is the 6th Annual Lamplighters Awards. Founded in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008, the awards promote community spirit amongst young people and asks parents and teachers to publically recognise acts of kindness from children and teens by nominating them for an honour.
The 3rd Annual Chanukah in the Plaza celebration will take place at Discovery Bay Plaza, Lantau on 27 November 2013 from 4.30-6.30pm. There’ll be giant Menorah lighting and a carnival atmosphere, and all are welcome to join.
Juda Chanukah organises kids’ events throughout the Hanukkah period and has a fab open house from 4.30-6.00pm on Wednesday 27 November 2013. There’ll be fun holiday-themed activities such as making Chanukah cookies and plenty of Chanukah games.
Up on Robinson Road, The United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong has three Hanukkah events for your diary!
Friday, 29 November 2013 sees ‘Shabbanukkah’ (that’s Shabbat and Hanukkah to the uninitiated!) featuring a community candle-lighting, and kids activities from 6.30pm, followed by a ‘Thanksgivukkah’ (… yep, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!) with turkey and latkes!
On Sunday 1 December 2013 is a Family Hanukkah Party from 10am – 12pm with lots of fun & games. The party costs $100 per child and you can RSVP to the UJC office before Fri 29November 2013.
On Tuesday 3 December 2013 there’s an adults-only Hanukkah cocktail party at The China Club, between 6:30pm and 8.30pm. Tickets are $350 with all proceeds benefitting the UJC. To attend, complete the Hanukkah Cocktails booking form and return to the UJC office before Thursday 28 November 2013.
Ohel Leah Synagogue is holding a Chanukah Extravaganza for the whole family. The event is on Sunday 1 December 2013 from 11am-2pm in the JCC Garden Room. Entrance fee is $50.
For the full lowdown on all the Hanukkah events in Hong Kong, here are some of the Jewish organisations you can contact around town:
Shuva Israel Synagogue & Community Centre 61 Connaught Road, 3/F Fortune House, Central (852) 6844 0472 www.shuva-israel.com
Ohel Leah Synagogue 70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Central (852) 2589 2621 www.ohelleah.org
Kehilat Zion Synagogue Hechal Ezra, 1/F, Unit 105, 62 Mody Road, Wing On Plaza, Tsim Sha Tsui (852) 2366 6364 or 2368 0061 www.kehilat-zion.org
Hong Kong Jewish Community Centre 1 Robinson Place, 70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Central (852) 2801 5440 www.jcc.org.hk
Chabad of Hong Kong 7-9 Macdonnell Road, 1/F Hoover Court, Mid-Levels, Central (852) 2523 9770
Chabad of Kowloon 2/F, 11 Hart Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui (852) 2366 5770
Chabad Of Lantau (852) 3746 4701 firstname.lastname@example.org
United Jewish Congregation Of Hong Kong Jewish Community Centre, 1 Robinson Place, 70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Central (852) 2523 2985 www.ujc.org.hk
Jewish Women’s Association Jewish Community Centre, 1 Robinson Place, 70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Central (852) 2801 5440 www.jwa.org.hk
Originally from London, Nicola has been living in Asia for the past nine years. She has always been obsessed with travelling, from backpacking the globe to seeking out Asia’s finer luxury destinations. After becoming a mum to two little girls (and now globetrotters in their own right!) she wanted to share her tips on making travelling with kids easier. You can find her kids travel advice site at www.jetlagandmayhem.com and follow her on Twitter @jetlagandmayhem