Curious Hanukah Lamps

Wooden Hanukah lamp with 'Trench Art' engraving

We have been busy creating new workshops for our Curious Minds sessions for people living with dementia. A popular topic we have been working on is Jewish Festivals and in the run-up to Hanukah we have been researching interesting Hanukah lamps in our collection.

A group of people, mixed male and female generally older around a table looking at objects

We are fortunate to have a large collection of beautiful and ornate Hanukah lamps so we were spoilt for choice when picking our favourites for the sessions. However a few leapt out at us because they were unusual and it wasn’t immediately obvious that they were Hanukah lamps.

Unusual Hanukah candle holder, cylindrical and upright with markings and colours


This object has many more uses as well. The tapered top with a beautiful bird between two leaves is in fact a spice tower and once this top is removed it reveals an intricately carved Kiddush cup. Inside the cup there is also a Megillat. We have enjoyed discussing this object at Curious Minds sessions seeing if anyone can work out what it is and how many different uses it has. We’ve had many great guesses with different people working out different parts of the object but we’ve yet to have a group work out every single hidden use!

A selection of ritual containers such as goblets and pots, metal and engraved

This multi-purpose ritual container doesn’t appear at first glance to be a Hannuakah lamp. However if you remove the bottom section of the container you are left with a Hanukah lamp with two Sabbath candle holders at either side.

We also enjoy looking at Hannukah lamps in our collection that started life as completely different objects. For example we have a silver Hanukah lamp made in Austria in the 19th century that started life as different secular objects.

Silver Hanukah lamp with long slim base and holes for candles

The main body of the lamp has been made out of a box for writing tools which was later altered with eight round holes for candle wicks added. The oval backplate seems to have been made out of a letter rack or a business card holder.

A particularly interesting Hanukah lamp made out of a secular object is our WWI Hanukah lamp. Before being made into a Hanukah lamp this was a brass shell case from WWI.

Reverse side of a wooden Hanukah Lamp with arms for candles and Trench Art engraving

This type of artwork is known as Trench Art and was made by soldiers out of whatever they could find. The back of the lamp acts as a reminder of the war with a carved image of soldiers travelling in convoy. This lamp was made after the war as an everlasting souvenir and I find it a very moving object in our collection showing how light and hope have come out from such a tragic item.

We in the Curious Minds team would like to wish all the people we have met at these workshops over the year and all our visitors a very Happy Hanukah.