The members and friends of the Jewish community in Taiwan recently celebrated Hanukkah, meaning lighting menorahs, sharing delicious recipes, and participating in various (religious) activities with their loved ones.
Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” Hanukkah commemorates the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabees revolt against the Seleucid Empire (a Greek kingdom resulting from the division of the Macedonian Empire) in the 2nd century BCE.
Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days between late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar by lighting the candles of a “menorah” or “hanukkiah” – a candelabrum with nine branches.
The candles are lit each night (one per day) by the “shammash” (the candle sitting in the middle of the menorah) until all eight candles are lit together on the final night of the festival.
以色列代表Omer Caspi告訴The China Post，「這就是光明節的主要儀式。」「佳節期間，我們每晚都會做一樣的事，我們向燭台祈福，我們也視這種儀式為一種保佑。」
“This is the major ceremony of the festival,” Israeli Representative Omer Caspi told The China Post. “It happens every night, we bless over the candles, and we light it as a blessing.”
“We do it in every household as well as in public ceremonies,” he said.
「我們也把Hanukkah稱作『光明節』」Galit Cohen Caspi補充道。她也強調，根據傳統，不論哪種光明燭台，它們都會被擺在大家都看得到的位置，像是在窗台邊，這樣經過屋子的人都可以看到燭光。
“We also call Hanukkah the “Festival of Lights,” Galit Cohen Caspi added, stressing that, according to traditions, the “hanukkiah” or the “menorah” are placed where “everybody can see them, at windows, so all the people that pass can see all the lights in all the houses.”
她解釋道，其他光明節的活動包含唱佳節歌曲、玩光明陀螺以及吃很油的食物，像是馬鈴薯餅 (levivot) 、光明節甜甜圈 (sufganiot) 以及其他乳製品等。
Other Hanukkah festivities include singing Hanukkah songs, playing the game of dreidel and eating oil-based foods, such as “levivots” (latkes) and “sufganiot” (Hanukkah doughnuts), and dairy foods, she explained.
“Hanukkah is a very, very much holiday of the family,” she continued. “We gather every night during these eight evenings, we gather together with friends and family with kids with close family and friends.”
“We eat ‘sufganiot’ and ‘levivot’ as they symbolize the oil, the miracle of the oil, the can of oil that lasted for eight days,” she continued. “So, the tradition says: you have to eat a lot of oily food.”
「孩子們通常會玩光明節陀螺，他們會旋轉陀螺，而陀螺有四面分別寫著“nes gadól hayá po” (נֵס גָּדוֹל הָיָה פֹּה)的字樣，代表『這裡曾發生過奇蹟』。」
“The kids normally spin the dreidel. The dreidels have four letters which say, “nes gadól hayá po” (נֵס גָּדוֹל הָיָה פֹּה), which means a “big miracle happened here,” she added.
“And then we give to the kids the “dmei ḥanukah,” it’s Hanukkah pocket money,” she noted. “For the kids, it’s a tradition that came back from the Jewish in Europe.”
According to the Jewish calendar, Caspi remarked that Hanukkah is probably the beloved holiday especially by kids. In Israel, the schools are closed by the way during the Hanukkah week, and the kids are at home.
Asked about the Jewish community in Taiwan, the representative remarked that Israeli community is relatively small, especially during COVID, when flights are difficult, and people do not travel as it used to be.
Still, he remarked that there is a growing interest among the people in Taiwan and Israel for each other’s culture. “There are many similarities between Taiwanese and the Israelis,” he noted.
“Both peoples have long, very long tradition and heritage,” he went on. “I think both peoples, in one hand they are very modernized, up to date, technology-based societies, but at the same time, tradition is very important.
“Family values are also very important for both sides,” he concluded. “Local holidays here are being celebrated around the family table, the same as in Israel.”