Hanukkah in the Spanish-Speaking World

Quick Answer

Janucá(Hanukkah), also known as la Fiesta de las Luminarias(the Festival of Lights), is an eight-day Jewish festival that celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BC. Although it is not a national holiday in any Spanish-speaking country, it is celebrated by thousands of Jews living in Spain and Latin America.

Facts About Hanukkah

First, let’s take a look at some facts about this commonly misunderstood holiday.

  1. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem.
  2. Hanukkah is not a "Jewish Christmas."
  3. Hanukkah takes place at a different time each year. It begins on Kislev 25, which typically falls between late November and late December on the Gregorian calendar.

Where is Hanukkah Celebrated in the Spanish-Speaking World?

While there are Jewish people in Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world, Argentina boasts Latin America's largest Jewish population, followed by Mexico, Spain, Chile, Uruguay, and Venezuela. These countries all have Jewish communities that celebrate Hanukkah. Let’s find out how they celebrate!

Hanukkah is also celebrated by Latino Jews in the United States.

How is Hanukkah Celebrated in the Spanish-Speaking World?

Hanukkah is generally celebrated the same way around the world.

In Buenos Aires, Argentinian Jews kick off Hanukkah with an annual m​enorah lighting ceremony at La Plaza República Oriental del Uruguay. A menorah is a special candelabra with nine candles, one for each of the eight nights of the Fiesta de las Luminarias, plus one that is used to light the others. Hanukkah bendiciones(blessings) are recited as each one is lit.

Throughout Mexico, Hanukkah is a happy holiday, full of food and games. Some children even get to break a dreidel-shaped piñata.

Sephardic Jews in Spain, like other Jews around the world, celebrate the holiday by eating fried foods such as buñuelos(fritters). Eating foods fried in oil symbolizes the Hanukkah miracle, in which oil meant for one night burned for eight nights straight.

A Sephardic Jew is someone whose ancestors lived in the Iberian Peninsula in the late 15th century.

Hanukkah Vocabulary

Here’s a list of words you can use to talk about Hanukkah in Spanish!

SpanishEnglish
el aceite
oil
la estrella de David
Star of David
la januquiá
menorah (nine arms)
el judío/la judíaJew
la libertad religiosa
religious freedom
la menorá
menorah (seven arms)
la perinola
dreidel
el rabino
rabbi
el sabbat
Sabbath
la sinagoga
synagogue
la vela
candle