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Chanukah through the Ages

Libi Astaire

What do coconut oil and oranges have to do with Chanukah? Where could you once see a double-decker menorah? Who celebrated the eighth night by lighting a bonfire with leftover wicks? Discover how Jews around the world celebrate Chanukah. The Chanukah customs of our many kehillos are as colorful as the little colored candles that some families use to light their menorah — and often, much more delicious. Here’s a collection of some of the fascinating customs adopted by our brothers across the globe.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

An Oily Dilemma Olive oil is the preferred oil for lighting the menorah. What did Jews use when there was no olive oil available? Such was the situation faced by the Jews of India, according toRahaminVarulkar in an interview with the Hindustan Times. According to tradition, in 562 BCE India’s first Jews settled in Cochin, Kerala, where olive oil was nonexistent. Back then this wasn’t a problem, because the Chanukah events were still a few centuries in the future. But some of these early communities were later joined by Jewish exiles after the Second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed. When Chanukah rolled around and they saw that olive oil wasn’t an option, they made do with what was in abundant supply: coconut oil.RahaminVarulkar says that even today olive oil is very expensive, and so the coconut oil tradition remains. There is also a tradition for Indian Jews to dip their wicks in coconut oil before lighting them.

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