Hanukkah: the Menorah, Sufganiyot and a Potato Pancake

The first of the December Festivals of Light to be celebrated this year is Hanukkah, which begins on December 22. I was familiar with the story of Judah Maccabee and the menorah that burned for 8 nights but not why two traditional foods: sufganiyot and latkes, are eaten during this festival.

Hanukkah, known as the Jewish Festival of Light, can occur anytime from late November to around Christmastime. The date varies but it is always on the 25th day of Kislev, the ninth month of the Jewish calendar. Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, in 165 BCE.

The Jews of Judea, lead by Judah the Maccabee, revolted against the oppression of King Antiochus. They recaptured, cleansed and rededicated the temple in Jerusalem. In later tradition, the length of the festival became 8 days to commemorate the small amount of oil that allowed the menorah to burn for 8 nights. This candelabra, with nine branches, includes the shamash candle which is used each night to light one of the other eight candles.

Of course, no celebratory festival would be complete without having fun and for Hanukkah it’s spinning the dreidel: a four-sided top. Eating is also essential and that’s where the sufganiyot come in, along with latkes, another traditional Hanukkah food. At Hanukkah, Jews celebrate the miracle of the temple oil that lasted 8 days by eating foods fried in oil.

The sufganiyot, a traditional Hanukkah fried sweet treat, is a red jelly stuffed doughnut. Evidence of eating deep fried pastry at Hanukkah dates to before the 12th century. Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora have been enjoying jelly-filled fried dough during Hanukkah for centuries and you can read more about this tradition here.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is latkes-3.jpgOf course, no Hanukah celebration would be complete without eating latkes as well, classically a pancake made with shredded, grated or ground raw potatoes bound with eggs, and matzo meal or flour then fried in oil until brown & crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. There is a controversy, however, as to whether latkes should be served with sour cream or apple sauce. My preference? Both of course! Click here for a simple latke recipe to make your own.

As with any holiday tradition, make yours extra special with appetizers, a full meal and/or desserts from Gersky’s. Call us today to place your order for any of the December holidays: 845-621-0696

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