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Jewish Christmas in Berlin

– a personal Story by Julia​

As a Jewish family in Berlin, with two kids in secular public schools, we tend to have a very festive season. We celebrate Hanukkah at home and the children bring a lot of Christmassy ideas home from their days out there.

Hanukkah reminds us of the Maccabean Revolt back in ancient Jerusalem and the miraculous events that took place after the Jews regained control of the Temple: While it was said that one bottle of oil would keep the menorah burning for just a single day, it burned for eight whole years – the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil.

That is why the holiday of Hanukkah lasts for eight nights. Every night we light up one additional candle in a nine-branched menorah – the Hanukkah candelabrum. We talk about the miracles of the past, sing songs and happily fill our bellies with oily and dairy food. Our children receive little presents and coins, excitedly gazing at the many candles. We invite friends to light the candles with us and share our joy. It is a very warm and cozy holiday – especially when you consider the cold winters here in Berlin.

We also love Glühwein and gingerbread and, in fact, do not order Chinese food for Christmas Eve. We enjoy the many traditional Christmas movies and – in this day and age – the Top 10 Hanukkah videos on the Internet.

The holiday begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which is the ninth month of the ecclesiastical year of the Hebrew calendar. In the western calendar, Hanukkah is celebrated in November or December. This year, the celebrations begin on Thursday, December 10th, and continue until December 18th.

Since Hanukkah is all about oil and light, not only decoration-wise, it is customary to consume mainly fried foods, like deep-fried jam or cream-filled doughnuts, potato pancakes and zucchini fritters.

Chanukah or Hanukkah? In Hebrew, Hanukkah is pronounced with the letter “chet” (ח).

The letter “H” comes closest to its actual sound, which is why both spellings can be used.

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