Have you heard of Hanukkah? We’re here to spotlight this Jewish festival and how you can celebrate Hanukkah 2022 in Hong Kong.
You may know your Mid-Autumn Festival from your Hungry Ghost Festival, and your Christmas from your Diwali – but how about Hanukkah? Also known as Chanukah, or the Festival of Lights – yes, similar to Diwali – Hanukkah is celebrated by the Jewish community around the world. In 2022, Hanukkah falls between 18 and 26 December. Here’s a quick guide to celebrating Hanukkah in Hong Kong.
All about Hanukkah in Hong Kong
First things first, what is Hanukkah?
Deriving its name from the Hebrew verb for ‘to dedicate’, Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that lasts for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar; this falls sometime between late November and late December in the Gregorian calendar.
The history of Hanukkah was recorded in the books of the First and Second Maccabees, and can be traced all the way back to the second century BCE. When the Maccabee Jews recovered Jerusalem from the Greek Seleucid Empire, they also reclaimed the Holy Temple. On the 25th day of Kislev, as a part of the Jewish religious service, the Jews went to light the menorah (a candelabrum with seven or nine branches) as part of their religious service. Upon realising that there wasn’t enough olive oil to light the candles, the believers went ahead and lit the menorah anyway – only to find that tiny bit of oil burned on and on, altogether lasting eight days and eight nights! To commemorate this miracle, the 25th day of Kislev was marked the first day of Hanukkah, and the festival lasts for eight days in total.
How do people celebrate Hanukkah?
If you followed the story, it wouldn’t be a surprise to know that lighting the menorah is one of the most important rituals in the Hanukkah festival. Different from the temple menorah which only has seven branches, the Hanukkah menorah (or Hanukkiah) has nine branches, with the one in the middle placed slightly above or below the others. This unique candle is called the shamash, which is used to light the other candles. The shamash will kindle one other candle each night during the Hanukkah until all eight are lit on the final night of the festival.
In addition, many families exchange gifts each night; lucky children will receive books, games, and toys like the dreidel (a four-sided top). Prayers and blessings are made daily, and some sing Hanukkah songs throughout the festival. Furthermore, the Jewish community enjoys fried foods to pay tribute to oil, the key item to Hanukkah. These traditional foods include latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and others. Some also eat dairy products in remembrance of the story between Judith and Holofernes (during which the former beheaded the latter… But let’s save that tale for another time.)
Where to go to celebrate Hanukkah 2022 in Hong Kong
According to the Kehilat Zion Hechal Ezra Synagogue, there are approximately 600 Jewish families in Hong Kong. Our city is fairly popular with the global Jewish community due to its identity as a metropolitan business hub, drawing Jewish entrepreneurs and professionals from the US, UK, Israel, and other countries. If you’d like to learn more about the local Jewish community, or even join the Hanukkah celebrations in Hong Kong, here are some organisations where you can find more information.
1. Chabad of Hong Kong
Also known as Chabad-Lubavitch, Chabad is one of the major philosophies and movements in the Jewish religion, and it’s become one of the biggest Jewish organisations across the world.
Chabad of Hong Kong, 1/F, Hoover Court, 7-9 Macdonnell Road, Hong Kong, p. 2523 9770
2. Kehilat Zion Synagogue
Also known as Hechal Ezra Synagogue, Kehilat Zion was established in 1995. It’s now led by Rabbi Meoded, Chief Rabbi of the Hong Kong Sephardic Community, and has over 900 members. Apart from services on weekdays and Shabbat, the synagogue delivers weekly Torah lectures and philosophical kiruv seminars. You’ll also be able to find a kosher restaurant and a Jewish library inside Kehilat Zion.
Kehilat Zion Synagogue, Unit 105, 1/F, Wing On Plaza, 62 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Hong Kong, p. 2366 6364
3. Jewish Community Centre (JCC)
Located in the Mid-Levels, the members-only JCC building is the ultimate hub for the Jewish community in Hong Kong. Not only is it home to the Kosher Mart and various restaurants, but it’s also the base for multiple Jewish organisations, including The United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong (UJC) and Jewish Women’s Association (JWA). Moreover, the Jewish Community Centre hosts a range of classes and activities for kids, as well as incorporating fitness facilities on its grounds.
Jewish Community Centre, One Robinson Place, 70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong, p. 2801 5440