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First Day of Hanukkah in the United Kingdom

Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is an 8-day Jewish celebration often referred to as the Festival of Lights. Jewish people in the UK celebrate this holiday by lighting candles, exchanging presents, and eating fried foods.

Family celebrating Hanukkah.


Hanukkah in the Jewish Calendar

Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of Kislev, the 9th month of the Jewish calendar. The date falls into November or December in the Gregorian calendar.

Is the First Day of Hanukkah a Public Holiday?

The first day of Hanukkah is not a bank holiday in the UK. Jewish businesses may be closed or have different opening hours. Jewish children at state schools can obtain permission to have time off school to celebrate this holiday.

How Is Hanukkah Celebrated in the UK?

One of the most important symbols is the hanukkiah, a 9-branched menorah or candelabrum, which may be placed in a private home, a synagogue, or a public place, such as Trafalgar Square in London.

On the evening preceding the first day of Hanukkah, the first candle is ceremonially lit, usually accompanied by songs and prayers. Each of the following 7 evenings, a new candle is ignited, so that all candles are burning on the last day of Hanukkah. The middle candle, called the shamash, is used throughout the celebration period to light the other candles.

In the UK, a hanukkiah is ceremonially lit each year at the home of the Speaker of the House of Commons. The Prime Minister traditionally releases a Hanukkah message on or around the first day of Hanukkah.

A variety of foods are traditionally served during the Hanukkah period, such as potato cakes (latkes) and donuts (sufganiyot) fried in oil, as well as a range of dairy products.

Hanukkah is sometimes called Jewish Christmas, and small gifts may be exchanged in some families. However, it is not customary to give lots of presents, a tradition that has in western countries become one of the main features of the Christmas celebration.

Why Is Hanukkah Celebrated?

Jewish people around the world celebrate Hanukkah to commemorate an event traditionally termed the miracle of the cruse of oil, as described in the Talmud, one of the central scriptures of Judaism.

Who Celebrates Hanukkah in the UK?

The United Kingdom is estimated to have the 5th largest Jewish population in the world, with just under 300,000 people practicing the Jewish faith in the country. By far the largest British Jewish community is found in London, followed by those in Manchester and Leeds.

History of Jews in the UK

Jewish settlement in England can be traced as far back as the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Jewish community outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese communities in England by the 18th century.

Many Jewish families in Eastern Europe moved to England to escape persecution and hardship between 1881 and 1914. About 150,000 Jewish people settled in England, with large numbers staying at London's East End during that time. England continued to receive Jewish immigrants escaping persecution around the time of World War II (1939-1945).

Jewish Holidays Last Longer Outside of Israel

In the Jewish diaspora—Jewish communities outside of Israel—an extra day is usually added to religious observances, with the exception of Yom Kippur, which lasts only one day worldwide, and Rosh Hashana, which is celebrated over two days in both Israel and the diaspora.

This custom has its roots in ancient times when the beginning of the months in the Jewish calendar still relied on the sighting of the crescent Moon following a New Moon.

The beginning of a new month was determined by the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of ancient Israel in Jerusalem. Once the date was published, messengers were dispatched to spread the news among Jews living abroad. Since this process took some time, it was decreed that Jews outside of ancient Israel were to observe every holiday for 2 days to make sure that the rules and customs applicable to each holiday were observed on the proper date. This rule is still observed today.

About First Day of Hanukkah in Other Countries

Read more about First Day of Hanukkah.

First Day of Hanukkah Observances

Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2017WedDec 13First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2018MonDec 3First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2019MonDec 23First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2020FriDec 11First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2021MonNov 29First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2022MonDec 19First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2023FriDec 8First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2024ThuDec 26First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2025MonDec 15First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2026SatDec 5First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday
2027SatDec 25First Day of HanukkahJewish Holiday

While we diligently research and update our holiday dates, some of the information in the table above may be preliminary. If you find an error, please let us know.