With Australia becoming more and more diverse, you’ll find more and more of your colleagues celebrating holidays other than Christmas.
“We often assume everyone is the same and everyone’s celebrating the same thing,” says Dr. Avril Alba, an associate professor in Jewish civilisation and Holocaust studies at the University of Sydney. “[Celebrating other holidays] helps people understand who they’re working with."
And embracing them is also a wonderful way to get to know your coworkers, learn a bit about other cultures and try new cuisines.
"It is important to value and respect each and every person in the workplace and part of this is a celebration and acknowledgment of whichever culture or religion they embrace," says Lisa Goldberg, a cookbook author who heads up the Monday Morning Cooking Club.
Part of the Sydney Jewish community, Goldberg is getting ready to celebrate Hanukkah. Falling late in the year, it has become a time for people to gather, exchange gifts and, of course, eat!
"Food is an essential element in celebrating different cultures," she says.
What’s eaten on Hanukkah often depends on where in the world you’re from, but Dr. Alba says a few common staples for the holiday include:
If they're hard to find or you'd like to make it a more well-rounded meal, some other Jewish food staples include bagels, smoked salmon, chicken soup, rugelach (a flaky, sweet pastry).
Some places you can order Hanukkah foods include:
If there isn't anywhere near you, consider suggesting a potluck. This way, each person can bring in foods that were special to them growing up. Or, try cooking something new!
"As part of Jewish culture, different foods tell or remind us of the stories of each of the festivals.," says Goldberg.
Like in many religions, the food eaten around the Jewish holidays tells a story. Eating foods cooked in oil, like potato pancakes and doughnuts, symbolises oil used to light a sacred candle that lasted eight nights instead of the expected one. Other holidays, such as Passover and Purim also have foods traditionally eaten to in commemoration.
"These foods allow us to keep remembering and keep telling the stories to ensure that the traditions continue."
There aren’t any dietary restrictions specifically linked to Hanukkah. However, many practicing Jewish people do keep Kosher, which does have limitations.
How strict of a diet people keep really does differ from person to person, but a few basics to keep in mind:
If you’re not sure quite how to order for for kosher diets, Prof. Alba suggests catering for whoever has the strictest diet.
“It’s the most inclusive,” she says. “It doesn’t hurt [others] to keep kosher, but it allows them to feel comfortable.”
Running for eight nights, Hanukkah starts on 18 December and ends on 26 December in 2023.
The dates do change every year as Jewish holidays run on the Jewish calendar.
Dubbed the “festival of lights”, Hanukkah commemorates the reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It’s said when it was reclaimed, there was only enough oil to light the temple menorah for one day, but instead it lasted for eight.
Nowadays, those celebrating will light candles in their homes for eight nights to symbolise this.
Although it’s not actually one of the most important holidays, “Hanukkah has become the Jewish Christmas,” Prof. Alba says.
“It’s interesting because it’s culturally important, but religiously there’s barely any restrictions,” compared to other important days in Judaism.
During Hanukkah, there aren’t any additional restrictions on work or eating and there aren’t any additional religious services to attend.