Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an important holiday in the Jewish culture, celebrated each year for eight days. It is often spelled differently in different countries and regions, resulting in many variations such as Chanukah, Hanuka, Chanuka, Hannukah and Hanukka. So why does Hanukkah have different spellings?
The spelling differences of Hanukkah come from its many adaptations throughout time. The name Hanukkah itself is derived from the Hebrew word for dedication, or “chanukat ha’mizbe’ach”. As the holiday was translated from Hebrew into other languages such as Greek, Aramaic, and Yiddish, variations in its spelling started to emerge.
Adaptations in Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Traditions
The many spellings of Hanukkah have also been influenced by the Ashkenazi Jewish culture which primarily refers to Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. In Yiddish, Hanukkah is traditionally known as “Chanuka”, while in Yiddish-influenced Hebrew it can be spelled “Hanuka”. The spelling typically found in Jewish prayer books is “Hanukka”.
The Sephardi Jewish culture, referring to Jews primarily from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, typically spell Hanukkah as “Chanuqa” while the Mizrahi Jewish culture, referring to Jews from the Middle East, typically spell it “Ḥanuka”.
Adaptations in English
Hanukkah is also referred to by non-Jewish cultures, and therefore its translations into English are slightly different. The most common spelling of Hanukkah is “Hanukkah”, which originates from Yiddish. This spelling was popularized in the early 19th century by English Jewry.
In English-speaking countries, the spelling “Chanukah” is often used in official publications while “Hanukah” or “Chanuka” are commonly used in societal settings. “Hanuka” is also a commonly used spelling as a reference to the Yiddish translation.
Adaptations in Other Languages
The spelling of Hanukkah is different in many languages, as many of the characters in the Hebrew alphabet are difficult to translate. In French, Hanukkah is written as “Hanouka”. In German, it is written as “Chanuka”. In Russian, Chinese, and Spanish it is written as “Ханука” (Khanuka/Khanuka), “汉诺卡” (Hànnǔokǎ) and “Chanuká” respectively.
As Hanukkah has spread across the world, so have its translations and spellings. Due to its many adaptations, Hanukkah is now spelt in different variations in nearly every country that celebrates the festival of light. While varied spellings of Hanukkah can be confusing, they indicate its popularity and cultural significance, as the holiday is celebrated around the world in many languages and cultures.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.