Hanukkah - Celebrating the Festival of Lights in the City of Lights…
For the lovely Janet, for sharing her faith and her world - aren't I the lucky one to call you my dear friend?! May all your days be filled with light...
P'Nichers, as a Catholic, I don't have much experience in celebrating Hanukkah in Paris, but hope to be able to share some ideas here with you. If I get something wrong, please offer me some grace and correct my errors so that we can learn and grow together...
Hanukkah - Qu'est-ce que c'est?
Hanukkah (often spelled Chanukah) is a Hebrew word, meaning dedication.
This year on the evening of December 18, 2022, millions of the faithful will begin the eight day/night celebration of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Pourquoi, Why?
Picture it: 200 BC, Judea...
Judea (Israel) had fallen under the control of Antiochus III (Seleucid King of Syria). While he did permit the Jews to continue the practice of their Jewish faith, his son (Antiochus IV Epiphanes) was not as kind.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes, (who was seen as a usurper by some) in turn, banned the practice of the Jewish faith and enforced the worship of Greek Gods in its place.
Fast forward to 168 BC when Antiochus IV Epiphanes' soldiers entered Jerusalem, murdering thousands in their path, and demolished Jerusalem's Holy Second Temple. In the temple's place, he had an altar to the Greek god, Zeus, erected.
This atrocity could not go unanswered.
Moving forward to 164 BC, a group of Jewish warriors (called Maccabees and now led by Judah of the Maccabees) formed a large rebellion and went on to defeat the Greek (Seleucid) army.
The triumphant Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, and further, wished to relight their menorah to commemorate the victory.
Quick Side Lesson:
A menorah is an oil based candelabrum. Menorah, itself, is the Hebrew word for "lamp".
The first mention of a menorah is found within the biblical book of Exodus (noted specifically in 25:31-40). It's stated here that the design of the lamp was shown to Moses by God upon Mount Sinai.
Now, the Maccabees, upon seeking to relight their menorah, realized that they had only enough purified oil to keep it illuminated for one single day.
Bummer, right? Wait for it...
It's Miracle Time!
Despite the small amount of oil to be had, the menorah miraculously remained lit for eight consecutive nights.
Hanukkah, as we know it, is symbolized by the lighting of the nine branched menorah - one candle for each of the eight nights and one "helper" candle, called a Shamash. Prayers are recited each night as the candles are lit, one for each night of continued miracles.
Hanukkah is also deliciously celebrated though traditional Jewish cuisine.
Fried in oil to symbolize the miracle of the lasting menorah oil, potato pancakes (or latkes) are very popular (and Janet's are the best). Also often served are fried jelly donuts (called sufganiyot), among other scrumptious specialties.
Dreidels (or four sided spinning tops) are the customary toys of the season.
Gifts are most often exchanged in this fashion - one gift for each night of Hanukkah. Some families prefer to give cash as a gift, to symbolize gelt, which actually means money.
Are you able to celebrate Hanukkah in Paris this year? What luck, if so! You will be able to see menorahs lit in honor of Hanukkah in many spots in town. You might choose to attend one, some, or all from the list below...
1st Night Candle
Sunday, December 18, 7:30pm
Champs de Mars, in front of the Eiffel Tower
2nd Night Candle
Monday, December 19, 7:30pm
Place de la République
3rd Night Candle
Tuesday, December 20, 7:30pm
Place des Fêtes
4th Night Candle
Wednesday, December 21, 7:30pm
Place de la Bastille
5th Night Candle
Thursday, December 22, 7:30pm
Place du Maréchal Juin
6th Night Candle
Friday, December 23, 7:30pm
Place du Châtelet
7th Night Candle
Saturday, December 24, 8pm
Place Guy Môquet (by BNP)
8th Night Candle
Sunday, December 25, 6pm
Place de l'Opéra
There are other sites that light menorahs during Hanukkah as well, such as: Place Vendôme, Parc Monceau (near the Malesherbes Blvd entrance), Place Étoile, and Place de la Bourse.
And don't just stop at the menorahs. You can enjoy strolls around the traditional Jewish quarter of Paris, Le Marais (within the 4th arrondissement). Well explore more on Le Marais soon, so hope you will subscribe to join us back here again in the Parisian Niche.
There is a cluster of popular Jewish patisseries (bakeries) on the rue de Rosiers, but P'Niche's favorite is:
27, rue des Rosiers
Métro: Saint Paul
An amazing selection of treats and goodies awaits you in this brightly colored gem!
Just footsteps away, don't miss:
14, rue des Rosiers
Métro: Saint Paul
You guys, the almond croissants! Trust P'Niche here...
For my Kosher practicing P'Nichers, you might enjoy:
29, rue des Rosiers
Métro: Saint Paul
There are lots of delicacies here and beyond, you will have such fun exploring your own Jewish faith or learning more of the many beauties of Judaism.
Need more than pastries? Why not think about trying a meal here:
(several locations, but P'Niche loves):
22 rue des Ecouffes, 75004
Métro: Saint Paul
For my Kosher dining P'Nichers, might I recommend to your taste buds:
26 Rue Jean Mermoz, 75008
Don't let the dark exterior fool you - the interior is a white wonderland of Kosher goodness!
Should you find yourself in Le Marais and wish to attend services, you might wish to consider:
Synagogue de Nazareth
15, rue Notre Dame de Nazareth
Métro: Temple or République
For details on times and to learn some history, their official site is here.
There are, of course, other synagogues located throughout Paris. There is also an English speaking synagogue in the 9th arrondissement.
If you are wanting to learn and experience more, you might wish to visit:
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme
Hôtel de Saint-Aignan
71, rue du Temple, 75003
Should you wish a deeper and more enriching experience, while I have not yet toured with her, P'Niche hears that Flora from Jewish Paris Tours is exceptional.
Not able to get away to Paris this year to celebrate Hanukkah? Pas de problème!
Break out your recipes (old and new). Looking to expand you repertoire? Check out these recipes!
You might decorate or accessorize your home in the colors of blue and white.
Take note that in the Jewish faith, blue represents: divinity, peace, calm, and tranquility, while the white symbolizes: purity, cleanliness, and of course, light!
Why not even send your guests home with some festive treats in these playful (non-sponsored) Hanukkah favor bags.
However you choose to celebrate, be it home or in Paris, let the miracles in your life abound. To the P'Nichers who celebrate, Hanukkah Sameach et à bientôt!