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ASL: "Hanukkah"


The sign for "Hanukkah" has variations (just as the English word "Hanukkah" has different spelling variations: Hanukkah, Chanukah, and other spellings.

Someone might try to tell you that the sign for Hanukkah is either palm forward or palm backward.

At some point in the future that may become generally true.  Language evolves.

However, it is likely you will see "Hanukkah" signed either way (palm forward or palm backward) in the Deaf Community*. If you research this sign and dig around (as I did) I'm sure you'll come to the same conclusion. I'm very comfortable telling you that you will see Hanukkah signed both ways (palm forward or palm back) in real life, (as well as "in the literature" and "online").

Hanukkah: palms backward: Elaine Costello's book: "Religious Signing," also in Lou Fant's version in the "ASL Phrase Book."

Hanukkah: palms forward: Michigan ASL Browser, The ASL Handshape Dictionary, LASL, and "Dr. Don G."

Hanukkah: Unusual version: (at the time of this research they were using a very stylized movement that ends up palm back).

Hanukkah: both versions: palms forward and palms back: Random House ASL Dictionary (two entries).

Hanukkah: palms backward - )

Note: Richard Horrell mentioned to me that he recalls (when he was in Washington D.C.) seeing Jews sign Hanukkah signed palm forward.)

I do not have a personal preference for one way or the other. I recommend you do it whatever way your local Deaf Jewish friends do it. If you have no Deaf friends -- get some. I'm going to put the "palm forward version" as my main version for this dictionary / resource but -- for what it is worth, it seems to me that the palm back version is a bit easier to do. (Less tension in the wrist.) Also, if you are wishing someone a "Happy Hanukkah" your hands are already palm back from signing "HAPPY" so it would seem an easy transition into a palm-back Hanukkah.

Again, though do as the locals do.
--Dr. Bill

(Palm-forward version)


(Palm-back version)

Hanukkah: (version 3) (Not recommended.)

Similar to other versions but the hands start in "B-handshapes" instead of "4" handshapes. This version makes no sense to me since the fingers are (supposed to be) representing candles not something "flat."


In a message dated 7/6/2005 10:38:02 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

I let you know your lesson is H and Hanukah is wrong spells and Its actual is meaning : Hanukkah
Bye, I enjoy checking to your site is the best sign langauge.

Dear Ecdrury,
Thanks for sharing your comment.
According to there are three accepted spellings:   [Update: That is no longer the case as of 2018.  The shorter spelling is "gone."  So, I'm going to update this page to use what seems to be the most popular version. Language evolves!]
"Hanukkah or Hanukah also Chanukah."
But now I have a vote from you for the longer spelling.
Dr. Bill
p.s. By the way, "langauge" is actually spelled, "language."  (Wink.)
In a message dated 7/7/2005 2:11:42 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Oh, because I'm used on the website is
I got it what you mean.
Thank you for told me.

* Update:  As of 2019 we are still seeing both versions.

* * Update:  2018: Update from Dr. Bill: 
 [Update: The shorter spelling seems to have faded out. The shorter spelling is "gone" from as of 2018 when I checked.  Chanukah still seems to be listed as a variation on the spelling though.  Regardless, I'm going to update this page to use what seems to be the most popular version that also seems to have strong historic ties:  Hanukkah.


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