Whether you celebrate Hannukah or Christmas, December in
Israel is a cultural mosaic, and at no time is that more obvious than in December, when Jews and Christians in the country celebrate two major holidays – Hannukah and Christmas – often within a few days of one another, and even overlapping at times.
Hannukah is a festival of light – an eight-day holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The tradition is to light an eight-branched hannukiya with brightly-colored candles. The first night only one candle is lit, with another being added for each day of the holiday.
Christmas, which is observed by the 136,000 Christians living in the country, is a celebration of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Some 70,000 pilgrims are expected to arrive in Israel for the holiday this year.
Israel’s city streets are lit up with neon hannukiyot during the festivities, and the shops are bursting with people buying anything from Christmas trees and tinsel, to Hannukah candles, soufganiyot (jelly donuts) and hannukiyot.
Whatever your faith, ISRAEL21c brings you a series of pictures to enhance your enjoyment of the holiday season.
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A child lights candles on one of the nights of Hanukkah. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90
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Soufganiyot (or donuts filled with jam) sold in Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. The fried dough balls are synonymous with the holiday of Hannukah. An estimated 17.5 million soufganiyot are sold and eaten every year during Hannukah in Israel. Photo by Orel Cohen/Flash90
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Ultra orthodox families light candles on the first night of Hannukah in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem. The candles are lit outside to spread the light to others. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90
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Workers fix Hannukah lights along the road in the Givat Mordechai area of Jerusalem. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90.
5. Holidays Xmas4
Salesian monks take part in the Midnight Mass ceremony, which marks the beginning of Christmas Day, at the Beit Jamal monastery, near Beit Shemesh. Photo by Michal Fattal/Flash90.
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There are an estimated 37,000 Filipinos -both ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ – living and working in Israel. Like many foreign workers in the country, they are often devout Christians. Here children from the Philippines celebrate the Midnight Mass at a party in Tel Aviv. Photo by Daniel Bar-OnFlash90.
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A mother and son light a candle during the Christmas ceremony in the Orthodox Russian Church of Maria Magdalene at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Photo by Anna Kaplan/ Flash90
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Palestinian Christians dressed up as Santa Claus hand out chocolates and cheer in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem on Christmas Eve. Photo by Maya Levin/Flash90.