Let the world spice up your life.

Cafetalk Tutor's Column

Tutor Ilana Sensei 's Column

ハヌカーって何? What is Hanukka?

Dec 4, 2018


Hello CafeTalk community! My name is Ilana, and I am a new tutor here. I am excited and looking forward to meeting you soon. I have always loved learning about different cultures.  Over many years of hard work, I learned to speak 3 languages fluently in addition to my native English.  I think one of the most important things about learning languages is to be open to explore different cultures, and have a lot of fun while doing it. On that note, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my column article on Hanukka. Don’t know what that is? No problem just read ahead. :)


The winter season is here! Christmas can be a lot of fun, but there are other international holidays that we can learn about to broaden our cultural horizons.  For example, there is the African- American holiday of Kwanza, the New Year celebration in Russia, and in Israel and for Jews around the world, there is the holiday of Hanukka. 


Since I personally celebrate Hanukka, I thought it would be fun to explain to the CafeTalk community a little bit about this ceremony. The historical basis for the holiday is a celebration of the victory over the Greek rule in Israel in 165 BCE.  There is also a mystical element involving a small amount of olive oil that miraculously lasted 8 days. The Jews used this oil to light a huge golden candle-holder of religious importance in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. 


The modern day celebration lasts for 8 days. However, it is only celebrated in the evenings. Each day, we light one candle from an extra candle, and on each night we add another candle. On the last night, there are 8 candles burning bright plus the extra candle, so 9 candles total. This candelabrum, which holds all the candles, is called a menorah. Hanukka is also known as the festival of lights. 

Festive foods such as fried potato pancakes called latkes, traditionally dipped in sour cream or apple sauce, and jelly-filled donuts called sufganiot are enjoyed.  Children play with spinning tops called dreidels and gamble with chocolate coins.  Families spend time together singing Hanukkah songs and watching their bright menorah flicker.


The Jewish calendar is based on the solar and lunar system, so each year Hanukkah falls on a slightly different English date, but it’s always in winter and usually in December.  This year it started on December 2nd, and will end on December 9th in the evening. 


If you want to make latkes, try this recipe:




Happy Hanukka!







New Words:

explore- to look for, often in an adventurous way

Kwanza- African-American holiday celebrated in the United States during the winter

Jew (noun) /Jewish (adjective)- an ethnic and/or religious group of people originating from the Middle East

mystical- not according to the laws of nature, also spiritual

element- a part, section

temple- a place of religious worship, in this case a reference to the historical building knowns as the Second Temple in Jerusalem

candelabrum- (Latin origin) candle holder with many places to put the candles, a candle tree

flicker- fire or flames burning

solar- based on the sun

lunar- based on the moon

slightly- only a little bit, subtle 



Synonyms: (similar words with slight differences in meaning)

holiday- a day off work dedicated to celebrating a certain event

ceremony- a formal observance celebrating a specific event, often with a particular procedure of traditions

celebration- the act of making an important event an enjoyable social activity, often with music, food, fun, and games

festival (noun) festive (adjective)- a celebration that lasts over a longer period of time, often a few days or a week long




BCE- Before the Common Era, a system of dates, also known as BC




on that note- on that subject, regarding the previous point

to broaden your horizon- make your world bigger, make the scope of your knowledge grow

falls on- the time or date something happens or occurs



Foreign words: (that are sometimes used in English)

menorah- (Hebrew origin) a 9-branched candelabrum used for lighting candles on Hanukkah

dreidel- (Yiddish origin) a spinning top, a toy that spins around on the ground

latkes- (Yiddish origin) a potato pancake

sufganiot- (Hebrew origin) donuts often filled with strawberry jelly







Got a question? Click to Chat