From 7 December Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by Jews around the world by lighting candles and eating large quantities of fried food for over a week. It’s to remember when a drop of oil found in a destroyed ancient holy temple burned bright for a miraculous eight days.
London is home to a Jewish community of around 200,000 and at Chanukah time giant candleabras, called ‘Chanukiahs’ or menorah, appear around London and the festival is celebrated by communities all over town.
Here are six recommendations for joining in the fun:
The tallest Chanukiah is outside Golders Green station and it’s worth going along to see a Rabbi being lifted in a cherry picker to light the candles each night. Lighting takes place at 6pm Sunday to Thursday (7pm on Saturday) with a special children’s street party on Tuesday 8 December in the evening. More giant chanukiahs can be seen in pop-up roadside locations from West Hampstead to Wimbledon and will be lit every night of Chanukah.
Party in Trafalgar Square
Chanukah on the Square is organised by the London Mayor’s office and takes place in Trafalgar Square. The Chanukiah will be lit every night of Chanukah at 6pm. On Thursday 10 December there is a special celebration with entertainment from 5.30pm including FREE doughnuts and music from the Maccabeats.
At the Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum in Camden will be lighting their Chanukiah every night of Chanukah at 4.30pm. There's also a programme of Chanukah related talks and activities during the week.
Chanukah on ice
At JW3, the smart new-ish Jew-ish cutural centre on Finchley Road, there is a Chanukah on Ice Silent Disco with DJs, doughnuts and wine on Saturday 12 December from 7.30pm. And for families, there is a programme of fun events centred around candle lighting at 5pm each night of Chanukah.
Eat fried foods
If you'd like to know where to buy doughnuts or latkes and find out more about London’s vibrant Jewish Community, join a Jewish Tour of Golders Green. See SharedCity for dates and more information. SharedCity offers tours exploring the many different communities of London and can show you where to buy the best bagels, doughnuts and salt beef sandwiches in town.
Offer the right greeting
How to blend in: shout “Happy Chanukah” or “L’Chaim!” (To Life!) to other participants. Forget about your waistline and don’t hold back when offered a doughnut or a latke (fried potato cakes). They may not be free of calories but at a lot of the Chanukah events across town, they are often handed out for free, a rare treat for Londoners.
By Caroline Bourne, director of SharedCity, which produces cross cultural tours and experiences.