How Jewish Families Continued to Celebrate Hanukkah Through the Pandemic


Hanukkah combines light, warmth, and love and wraps it up into one celebration. Known as the festival of light, it holds great significance on the Jewish calendar and represents an important time for families to come together and celebrate.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, however, families are having to overcome obstacles in order to celebrate Hanukkah collectively. Restricted gatherings and travel arrangements often meant communities had to get creative about finding new ways to connect and be together.

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

Below, we will look at how this beautiful holiday was celebrated by Jewish families worldwide. 

Ancient Symbols

In times of uncertainty, the level of reassurance offered by a single symbol cannot be overstated and, during the wintertime, the sight of the Hanukkiah menorah – not to be confused with a standard menorah, since a standard menorah has seven branches, whereas the Hanukkiah menorah has nine branches that form candleholders – took on additional significance.

Each candle is lit to signify the passing days of the Hanukkah celebrations. You can buy menorahs online in all shapes and sizes – some designers have created incredible menorahs that don’t necessarily follow the traditional design. 

Traditionally Hanukkah isn’t a holiday that calls for decorations, although, over the last few years, Jewish families have begun to decorate their homes more in light of celebrations. 

Public menorahs are also lit in major cities around the world in celebration. From London to Toronto to Tel Aviv, communities gather. While restrictions have limited the amount of people who can be present, families still come to reflect in the light, still able to participate collectively, if not at the same exact moment.


Although Hanukkah isn’t considered to be one of the high holiday holidays of the year, it is still one of the most well-known, and it’s one that’s steeped in religious rituals and traditions.

A person lighting white candles beside the window
Photo by Enrique Macias on Unsplash

The main ritual is the lighting of the menorah. The lighting of a candle each day symbolizes an eternal flame – but its original meaning stems from the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after the Seleucids invaded and somewhat destroyed it in 164 B.C.E. The tale goes that the holy people of the temple lit the menorah, which only had enough oil for one day, but it lasted for eight – that’s where the tradition of lighting the menorah for eight days arises from.

The lighting of the menorah in Jewish households gives each family the chance to celebrate the holiness of the celebration. Zoom and other video conferencing software has enabled families and communities to watch the lighting of the household’s menorah. While lighting your own menorah in your own home is still essential, doing so with family watching helps spread the holiday spirit.

While nothing can replace that true sense of togetherness, the human ability to adapt and persevere represents a ray of hope in and of itself.

Tasty Treats and Games

Bright designed living room with firework
Used with permission of Lisa Furey Interiors

Hanukkah is a chance for families to come together and celebrate the festival of light. Games and tasty treats are a must! One game you will find nearly every household playing is spin the dreidel. Some families will put bets on these simplistic spinning tops where the winner is whoever guesses the right side that the dreidel will land on.

Tasty fried treats are also a must. Some say that the oily treats consumed on Hanukkah represent the long-lasting oil that kept the menorah burning. On the menu, you’ll usually find latkes, which are potato pancakes. You’ll also find sufganiyot which is a jelly-filled donut.

Again, here, the help of digital communication software works to great effective. Being able to communicate in real-time, informally, just as if you were with them is invaluable during Hanukkah. Also, online games are available, enabling you to play together without the being mediated by cameras.

Hanukkah is one of the best Jewish religious holidays that brings light and celebration into the home. Most Jewish families will go all-out to celebrate Hanukkah, even though it isn’t the holiest of holidays!

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