Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that is celebrated for eight days, usually in December. It is also called the Festival of Lights. Find out why and learn about what people do to celebrate this special holiday.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.

Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish celebration.  Its date changes from year to year, but it always takes place either in November or December. It lasts for eight days and is celebrated by Jews around the world.

The menorah

The most important part of Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah (a special candleholder used in Jewish ceremonies). For Hanukkah, there is a special menorah with nine candles. Eight of the candles represent the eight days of the festival. The ninth candle is used to light the other eight. On the first day, only one candle is lit, on the second day, two candles, and so on, until all the candles are lit on the last day.  The candles are lit at sunset and should burn for at least half an hour.  They are usually put at a door or a window so that people can see them from outside.

The history behind the festival

The festival celebrates when a group of Jews won back a temple from the Greeks in the second century BC. They made a new menorah to replace the one that had been broken. But when they went to light it, they could only find one small bowl of the special oil they needed. There was only enough oil to last one night but they knew it would take them eight days to prepare more. They lit the lamps with the oil on that first night, thinking it would burn for just one night. But the oil lasted for another seven nights and this event gave birth to Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

Special Hanukkah food

Oil is an important part of the Hanukkah celebrations and all kinds of food made with oil are eaten on the eight days.  In central and eastern Europe they make latke, fried potato pancakes, that they eat with apple sauce or sour cream.  The favourite treat in Israel is sufganiyot (doughnuts filled with strawberry jam). Other popular festival foods include apple cakes and pretzels (bread made in the shape of a knot).  

Celebrating with family and friends

Family and friends are very important during the festival. It's traditional to invite people to your home to have dinner and to play games together.  The most traditional game is played with a dreidel, a wooden spinning top with four sides. There are four Hebrew letters on the four sides and, depending on which letter your top lands on, you win or lose. The game is usually played with nuts and dried fruit and sweets.  

Hanukkah gifts

Lots of families give presents during the festival, especially to children.  These are often games that the whole family can play together or books and other small gifts.  It is also a tradition to give money to children (Hanukkah gelt) and to encourage them to donate some of their money to good causes.

Do you need to improve your English?
Whether you need better English to travel or meet new people, our online English courses will give you real practice. Join thousands of learners from around the world who are making great progress with their English level with our online courses.


Worksheet85.9 KB

Language level

B1 English level (intermediate)

Submitted by jyoti Chaudhary on Thu, 05/05/2022 - 13:42


Is there a similar festival in your country or culture?
no there is no festival in my country like this. I'm from India and here is the most important festival is news years day.

Submitted by sithutun on Mon, 06/12/2021 - 09:33


As a Myanmar born Chinese, I celebrate two festivals like Hanukkah in Myanmar. First one is Thadingyut also known as Lighting festival lasts for 4 days. During this festival, people lights up the candles at night (nowadays candles are replaced by the LED light), pay homage to the elders including parents, grandparents and go to the pagodas where they worship and pray. Second one that I celebrate is the Chinese Spring Festival. At the new year eve of moon calendar, we have our dinner together with all the family members and worship and pray. The next day in the morning, we visit to the relative's places and get the red envelopes (money in the red envelopes). These red envelopes are given by the elders to the young like Hanukkah.

Submitted by Loki on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 04:25

I liked very much this magazine section. Different cultures -and religions of course- have different celebrations. Learning these cultures was great.

Submitted by Shin Min Thu on Sun, 03/01/2021 - 12:56

In my country, Myanmar, we celebrate Thadinngyut festival also a lightning festival. It lasts for 3 days and falls in October. Buddhists lights the candles for Buddha annually.

Submitted by meghashukla on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 16:21

What an interesting festival! In our country India we also celebrate Diwali the festival of lights. It is a 5 days festival and falls between mid-oct. and mid-nov.

Submitted by Enrique Rangel on Sat, 12/12/2020 - 00:19

In México the most of us are Catholics, perhaps the most similar tradition could be the first communion. When the teenagers celebrate and accepted the catholic religion and they lit one big candle named "cirio".

Submitted by cittàutopica on Thu, 02/04/2020 - 18:30

In my country (Italy) the Jewish communities celebrate Hanukkah and, in this occasion, catholic authorities send a message them for highlighting the consonance between the Festival of Lights and the Christmas, because two celebrations happen in the same period of the year.
Profile picture for user Anaitat

Submitted by Anaitat on Sat, 28/12/2019 - 14:26

Hanukkah is one of by far the most ancient traditions of Jews and as ‘menorah’, as ‘latke’, ‘sufganioyt’, ‘dredel’ and ‘gelts’ are its indispensable and amazing properties. The miracle of Hanukkah consists in that only one vial of oil was found with just enough oil to illuminate the Temple lamp for one day, and yet it lasted for eight days. Jews calendar is lunar but the bases of the festival are the same as in Orthodoxy the Christmas has: its seven days demonstrate that the light is the most important in the life of everyone and is the symbol of eternity, and the symbol of support of the most loved persons. It’s hard to believe how we can live without our dears and such days help us to catch in our chores, haw important such things are as tenderness of hands and warmth of look.

Submitted by Tajbibi Shamim on Sat, 14/12/2019 - 16:42

We have a festival called Diwali in India. It is a commercial new year where people pray for prosperity and worship goddess Laxmi . They then begin the new year. Workers and staff are given gifts, from the company's profit.

Submitted by Abdullah1991 on Sat, 07/12/2019 - 11:22

Actually, we don't have this kind of festival, but we have two different kind of celebrations in my country Saudi Arabia which is Islamic religion celebrations, the first one called "Eid Alfiter" the second one called "Eid Aladha". Eid Alfiter: came after "Ramadan" Which is name of month when Muslim people fast all that month, just "during the day" (my favorite).

Submitted by parisaach on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 09:17

There is no Hanukkah celebration in my country. There is some jew in my country, but I guess they don't dare to celebrate their traditional festivals in my country. I don't know any jewish person. I don't have prejudice against any relegion. I like old tradition of different countries and I think people should respect to other's beliefs

Submitted by cuneyt on Sun, 17/02/2019 - 22:20

Hi Everybody, Yes , there is like that festival actually it isn't festival completely. the religious cerenomy. I can tell on of them. its name is Ramadan feast. Ramadan feast is very important for muslim people in the world. The muslims fast along thirty days. People don't eat from ın the morning until evening. Firstly people wake up at night about 3-4 a.m. they eat something. Than, they don't eat food when they ear the azan. they don't eat and drink anything untıl in the evening. there are a lots of
Profile picture for user Wang Zijian

Submitted by Wang Zijian on Tue, 12/02/2019 - 13:29

Of course. We have Spring Festival each Lunar New Year here in China. It's similar to Hanukkah celebrated by Jews.
Profile picture for user Abolfazl Afshari

Submitted by Abolfazl Afshari on Wed, 06/02/2019 - 05:21

Hello All. There are many festivals in Iranian culture like: nowruz ; chaharshanbe suri ; Eid-Al-fitr for muslim people and so many other festivals for get better information about iranian festivals you can serach in the internet and enjoy. I hope the best for all of you

Submitted by Frost on Thu, 31/01/2019 - 18:07

The Thadingyut Festival , also known as the Lighting Festival of Myanmar, is held on the full moon day of the Burmese lunar month of Thadingyut. As a custom, it is held at the end of the Buddhist lent (Vassa) and is the second most popular festival in Myanmar after Thingyan Festival (New Year Water Festival). Thadingyut festival is the celebration to welcome the Buddha’s descent from the heaven after he preached the Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya, who was reborn in the heaven.

Submitted by Volvox on Fri, 25/01/2019 - 20:57

Yes, these is. Here in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina State, Brazil, it's called "Festa do Divino Espírito Santo".

Submitted by ahm11 on Tue, 22/01/2019 - 17:01

in my county there are lots of special days like first of Ramdan and and eid but the most important day is Alhaj and the day next to.

Submitted by Lucianokb on Wed, 16/01/2019 - 18:08

In my country haven't got a similar festival but it have got others celebraitions

Submitted by Ricardo Barreto on Wed, 16/01/2019 - 09:46

Hello everyone In my country, Colombia, we don't have a similar festival, we have a week called it "Semana Santa" but is different
Profile picture for user morteza1993

Submitted by morteza1993 on Thu, 10/01/2019 - 18:58

In my country Iran, we have many festivals. for example Nowruz, Chaharshanbe suri, Sizdah Be-dar, Shabe Yalda and so on.

Submitted by HermanHF on Thu, 10/01/2019 - 04:45

In my country the New Year's Day is the most important festival .I am a chinese.

Submitted by Nunu28 on Tue, 08/01/2019 - 15:17

Yes it is. In Javanese, they have ngupati festival, celebrates when expecting mother reached four months old baby in their uterus. The prhase "ngupati" based from word "papat" which means four. They believe that God blows spirits in to the baby at 4 months old baby. The expecting mother make rice wrapped with pale coconut leaves, it is called Ketupat. Sometimes they present it with chicken curry. Then, they dole ketupat and its dish to local communities as gratitude to God and pray May the baby will born healthy.

Submitted by Abdul Salam on Sun, 06/01/2019 - 22:11

Almost every religion has festivals and celebrations. Muslims celebrate Eid festival after keeping fast in the month of Ramadan. Christians celebrate Christmas. Hindus have Diwali festival which is full of colour and joys. The thing is we must pay respect to holy festivals of all religions. By respecting other religions will bring peace and harmony among different schools of thought and it will improve the tolerance among people.

Submitted by jjChen on Wed, 02/01/2019 - 01:53

Of course, it is similar to the Spring Festival in China.