First Candle for Hanukkah Lit in Budapest

The first candle to mark the beginning of the eight-day celebration of the greatest Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, was lit on 12 December on Nyugati Square in Budapest.

Slomó Köves, chief rabbi of The Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH), said at the ceremony that Hanukkah is a celebration of victory, when believers remember the light, the miracle, the faith, and the truth. He also reffered to US President Donald Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

At Hanukkah we celebrate the triumph of light over darkness … miracle over nature, faith over doubt and truth over lie.

The celebration will be accompanied by various community events, such as Hanukkah teaching, live music, ‘Hanukkah on ice’ on the ice rink of City Park, and of course traditional Hanukkah delicacies, such as jelly doughnuts and potato pancakes (latkes). This is the 20th year that a public Hanukkah celebration is being held in Budapest, and for the first time, a public lighting has been organized by EMIH in Miskolc and Debrecen as well.

photo: MTI / Tibor Illyés

In the capital, candles will be lit every night at 6 pm, except on Friday. On the first night, violinist Zoltán Mága and film directors László Nemes Jeles and Péter Gárdos lit the candle; on the second evening, writer and poet Gábor T. Szántó will do the lighting, and will be followed on the third night by ambassadors. On the fourth night, district mayors and state secretaries Attila Fülöp and Csaba Latorczai will take part in the ceremony, while on the fifth, representatives of youth organizations and secretary of state László Palkovics will attend the event.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán greeted the Hungarian Jewish community to mark the beginning of Hanukkah in a letter, writing that

The cold days and long nights wake our desire for light and festivity. The light of candles, increasing day by day, not only strengthens the feeling of belonging to family and community but proves the sustaining power of tradition and religion.

The letter was sent to the heads of the Orthodox Jewish Community, the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz) and Jewish cultural foundation Mazsok.

photo: MTI / Tibor Illyés

Slomó Köves and the Jewish community received Hanukkah greetings from Gábor Vona, president of the far-right Jobbik party, as well. They first received Hanukkah greetings from the party last year, then the rabbi rejected it and explained in an open letter that the greeting “rather surprised and confused” the Jewish community, and Jobbik “would do better to make these gestures at the forums [they] have used to spread hate, filth and darkness, not light”.

Gábor Vona defended the gesture as an effort to reconcile Christians and Jews in Hungary.  Although the chief rabbi’s opinion has not changed and he thinks the greeting is cynical, this year he has not responded to Vona’s greetings, claiming that he does not want to spoil the celebration for those who are “honestly sharing the joy of the holiday”.

photo: MTI / Tibor Illyés

Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greek army, and the subsequent miracle of rededicating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and restoring its menorah, or lamp. The miracle of Hanukkah is that only one vial of oil was found with just enough oil to illuminate the Temple lamp for one day, and yet it lasted for eight full days. Each night throughout the 8-day holiday, a candle or oil-based light is lit. As a universally practiced hiddur mitzvah (beautification of the mitzvah), the number of lights lit is increased by one each night.

via,, Hungary Matters,,