Hanukkah in France – La Fête de Hanoucca 🕯

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Hanukkah (Hanoucca in French) is celebrated rather discreetly, 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.

How do you Say Hanukkah in French?

Hannukah is an Hebrew word. The same way as you can spell Hannukah – Hanukah, Hanukka, Chanukah in different ways in English, there are different spellings in French : Hanoucca may be the most common, but you’ll also find Hanouccah, Hannouccah, Hanouka…

The “H” is pronounced in Hebreu like a “ch” in Geman, sort of a very hard French “R”, so there will be no elision or liaison before it. So it’s “de Hanoucca” not “d’Hanoucca”.

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

Now let’s study some French vocabulary related to Judaism.

Judaism – 23 French Words

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

French Hanukkah Traditions

Use the floating blue icon in the bottom right to hide/reveal the English translations below or just click here.

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

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 an additional candle daily following themes : Hanukkah , Light, Miracle, Shabbat , Heroism , Hebrew language , Jewish Solidarity and Peace. So the first night one candle, the second two, the third three…

A partir du début de 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 de 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.

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Chanukah’s Meal French Vocabulary

  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

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.

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.

As I said above I’m not Jewish myself, so if you’d like to contribute to this article with more French / English vocabulary about Hanukkah, or the French/English Jewish vocabulary, I would really appreciate your help. Please leave a comment below or send me an email.

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

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 25+ years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Come to Paimpol and enjoy an exclusive French immersion homestay with me in Brittany.

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