Of all the Jewish holidays, none highlight the differences between northern and southern hemisphere observances more than Chanukah.
The cycle of biblical Jewish holidays is closely linked to the agricultural cycle – Pesach in the northern spring, and Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur & Sukkot in the northern autumn. But in our modern, industrialized world, there isn’t that much difference between autumn and spring.
Chanukah is different. In the northern hemisphere, it’s in the middle of winter, but down under in Melbourne Australia, summer is in full swing. Having celebrated in Israel last year, the local experience of Chanukah is in stark contrast.
For starters, it only gets dark well after 9pm. There’s no rush to get home in time to light at dusk, and dinner is all over by candle lighting time. Indeed, we have to keep the smaller children up for candle lighting, after which we do our best to get them to bed!
Then there’s the weather. Summer in Australia means hot weather – often mid to high 30s (Celcius) and outdoor living – swimming pools and barbecues in the long afternoons. Nothing says it more than the great Aussie Chanukah BBQ – lamp chops, cold beer and latkes, cricket on the television, and delicious fresh doughnuts for dessert.
Add to this a multitude of outdoor Chanukah celebrations in shuls and local parks, typically culminating in a menorah lighting at dusk.
So as you put on your warm coat and dream of a white Chanukah, spare a thought for the Jews on the other side of the world, where we are celebrating the same Jewish holiday, with a slightly different spin (and no, the dreidel’s don’t spin in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere).