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French Culture

Hanukkah in France – La Fête d’Hanoucca

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis on December 2, 2018
Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Hanukkah (Hanoucca in French) is rather discreet, and many French people may not know what day Hanukkah is since it changes every year. Here are the French traditions for Hanukkah, as well as the French Hanukkah’s vocabulary.

1 – Vocabulary for Hanukkah in France

  1. Juif, juive – Jewish – F and V are pronounced
  2. Le judaïsme [ju da eesm] Judaism
  3. L’hébreu – Hebrew
  4. La Ménorah – menorah
  5. Allumer des bougies – to light up candles
  6. Une bougie – a candle
  7. Une allumette – a match
  8. Un briquet – a lighter
  9. Une toupie – a dreidel
  10. Une prière – a prayer
  11. Un miracle – a miracle
  12. La Torah – The Torah
  13. Une chanson – a song
  14. Le temple – temple
  15. Un rabbin – a rabbi
  16. Un cadeau – a gift
  17. Une pièce – a coin
  18. De l’argent – money
  19. L’étoile de David – the star of David
  20. Le sabbat – sabbath

2 – French Hanukkah Traditions

Je ne suis pas juive, mais voici ce que j’ai compris: pour célébrer la fête d’Hanoucca, chaque famille place sur la table un chandelier à neuf branches, la Menorah. Du premier soir au huitième soir, on allume une bougie quotidiennement en suivant les thèmes: Hanoukia, Lumière, Miracle, Shabbat, Héroïsme, Langue hébraïque, Solidarité juive et la Paix.

I am not Jewish, but here is what I understood: to celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah , each family places on the table a nine-branched candlestick , the Menorah . The first night in the eighth night, you light a candle daily following themes : Hanukkah , Light, Miracle, Shabbat , Heroism , Hebrew language , Jewish Solidarity and Peace.

A partir du début d’Hanoucca, on échange des cadeaux et la tradition veut que chaque enfant juif reçoive un peu d’argent ainsi qu’une toupie sur laquelle apparaissent les quatre initiales hébraïques indiquant « ce fut un grand miracle », en référence à une petite fiole d’huile retrouvée dans les ruines du Temple de Jérusalem, qui contenait assez d’huile pour un jour mais aurait miraculeusement allumé la Menorah pendant huit jours.

From the beginning of Hanukkah, gifts are exchanged and the tradition is that every Jewish child receives some money and a dreidel on which appear the four Hebrew initials indicating ” it was a great miracle,” in reference to finding a small vial of oil , found in the ruins of the Temple of Jerusalem, which contained enough oil for one day but miraculously lit the Menorah for eight days.

A la fin de la période d’Hanoucca, on prépare un repas constitué de mets de poulet ou de bœuf accompagnés de fritures à l’huile d’olive, et souvent de beignets à la confiture ou à la pomme de terre.

. At the end of the period of Hanukkah , a meal of chicken or beef dishes is prepared, accompanied by fried dishes in olive oil, and often jam or potato donuts.

3 – Chanukah’s Meal French Vocabulary

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  1. Une galette de pommes de terre – potato pancake (latke)
  2. La compote de pomme – apple sauce
  3. De la poitrine de boeuf – brisket
  4. De la dinde – turkey
  5. Un beignet – doughnut
  6. Cacher, casher (many different spellings) – kosher
  7. Des friandises – sweets

4 – How Do You Say Hanukkah in French?

Chanukah or Hanukkah, is usually spelled Hanoucca In French (also Hanoukka, Hannouccah, Hanouccah…). The spelling varies because Hebrew uses a different alphabet, so it’s not always transcribed with the same spelling.

It is also called « la Fête de l’Édification » ou « la Fêtes de l’Encénie », ou “la Fête des Lumières”.

5 – When is Hanukkah Celebrated in France?

It changes every year. The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah lasts eight days. Hanukkah takes place sometimes between the end of November and the end of December. Why do the dates vary? Because Hanukkah is originally based on the Hebrew calendar, which is different from our Gregorian calendar. Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev, on the ninth month of the Jewish calendar.

6 – Is Hanukkah Commonly Celebrated in France?

There are about 480.000 Jews in France (according to wikipedia), but unless you are in a Jewish neighborhood, Hanukkah is rather discreet, and many French people may not know what day Hanukkah is – it changes every year.

In Paris, there is a neighborhood called “le Marais” where many Jewish people live. Many shops are of course closed on Saturdays (for sabbath – le sabat in French) but do open on Sundays – which makes it a popular neighborhood that day since most shops are closed in France on Sundays – and you can eat some delicious Middle Eastern and Jewish specialities there (we recommend “L’As du Fallafel” – delicious food, fast service, a loooooong line for lunch, and not the most friendly service, but the food is worth it!), and enjoy some fantastic pastries as well.


If you’d like to contribute to this article with more French / English vocabulary about Hanukkah, please leave a comment below or send me an email.

Joyeuses fêtes de fin d’année à tous !
Happy Holidays to all of you!

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