Friday, November 25, 2011

Chanuka Candles in Barcelona

Five hundred and nineteen years after the Expulsion, I went to Barcelona last week to buy Chanuka candles.  In other years (for instance, in year 517 A.E.), I tried, to no avail, to buy them over the internet (too expensive) or place an order to the shop in Barcelona by phone (staff not interested in sending the goods).  Finally, I arrived too late and there were no candles left.  Instead of using my menorah that year, I used a standard taper in a brass candlestick and lit tea candles each evening, adding one each time to the lineup.  Actually, that worked just fine.

If I wanted to be more authentic (and not have to make these shopping trips to Barcelona), I could get eight small jars, pour in some olive oil, place a cotton wick in each, use a larger container for the shamish, and be more true to history.  But my personal history is of small multi-colored candles of yellow, blue, white, pink and red, and the Chanukiah that I inherited from my parents.  Although in fact, my parents preferred to celebrate Christmas.

The year of the tea candles, hearing my woeful tale, my long-lost and recently-found friend Irene was kind enough to send me a box of candles so that the next year I didn’t have to go shopping.  But a box only lasts one year so I was ready for another shopping expedition this year.  And off I went.

There is no searching involved in buying Chanuka candles in Barcelona.  Only one place has them.  So many years after the Expulsion, not many Jews have returned to Spain, and the kosher shop that operates across the street from the main synagogue is the one and only source.

You would never know that this building is a synagogue.  Evidence on the street is discrete, and without knowing the address, you would probably just walk by.  But if you look closely, you can see the entry grill lined with menorahs and finished off with a Star of David on each side at the top (click on the image to enlarge it). 

In order to buy my candles, I take the train to Barcelona – a two-hour ride each way, €12.20 round trip.  From the train station I walk to the shop, about a half-hour walk.  It is possible that I could take some other form of public transportation, but the shop is located a bit out of the way and I haven’t made a study of it.  Anyway, I love walking in Barcelona.  Each time I head off in the right direction, never exactly sure just where to turn, but somehow I always get there with no great mishap, although my route isn’t always exactly the same.

I am very happy to say that this year, I did find candles at the shop.  At €4.50, they were a lot cheaper than what it cost me to get there.  But they’re worth it.

While at the kosher shop I thought I might buy some yahrtzeit candles.  Ever since I ran out of the ones that I brought with me from California, I’ve been using church candles.  This works fine, yet somehow doesn’t seem quite kosher.  But when I went to take some out of the box (seen on the lower shelf), I saw printed on the face of it “Made in China.”  I put them back, thinking to myself, what the hell, that’s not kosher either.


  1. Happy Hanukkah, Dvora! This year's 8-day celebration falls in with the secular calendar Tuesday December 20- Wednesday December 28. Lovely photos, especially of the synagogue door.

  2. Thanks Janet! I keep a special page bookmarked so I can look up the dates of Jewish holidays, since there is not a peep about any of them hereabouts. I'll start lighting candles on the 20th and start making potato latkes at about the same time. Potatoes I can find, no problem.

  3. There is a shop of jewish products (books, kosher wine,...) in the Call next to Plaça Sant Jaume (Carrer de Sant Honorat). Probably they have also Hannuka candles.
    By the way I have hear (but I can't confirm if it is true) that on 20th a big hannukija will be installed in Plaça de St. Jaume next to the Nativity scene.

  4. Thank you Jaume. I will look for both of those when I am in Barcelona next week.

  5. Replies
    1. Where is the synagogue? Carrer de l'Avenir, 24. The shop is close by, across the street. That is if it is still there. I haven't gone there in a few years.