Hanukkah traditions represent the Jewish festival of lights celebrated over a period of eight days and eight nights. The holiday falls between late November and late December of the secular calendar and has a joyous overtone.
Commemorating the time when the Maccabees (Jewish rebels who had defeated the Syrians occupying Judea) had only one day’s worth of oil left to burn during a ritual cleansing of their ruined temple, to their surprise the oil miraculously lasted eight days.
The miracle of the Chanukah oil is celebrated by the lighting of a special menorah (an eight branched candelabra). The first night one candle is lit leading up to the eighth night when all eight candles are lit. Traditionally songs are sung by those taking part, dreidels (spinning tops) are spun for fun and delicious foods are eaten.
The amazing PS22 Choir from Staten Island singing a Hebrew Chanukah Song
Conducted by Gregg Breinberg
Hanukkah traditions include special foods prepared. Sufganiyot (doughnuts in English) are eaten. Popular with the kids, you can buy them with a range of different fillings. Latkes (potato pancakes in English), a fried mixture of grated potato and onion served with sour cream or thick cream cheese and sometimes apple sauce.
Here is one of my favorite Latke recipes:
- 1 pound potatoes grated
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon of self-raising flour
- a pinch of salt
- a pinch of pepper
- oil for frying
Peel potatoes and grate by hand. Transfer to a large bowl of cold water. (to stop from browning)
Soak grated potatoes 1 to 2 minutes then drain well in a colander.
Squeeze the grated potatoes well (use a kitchen towel to help soak up as much liquid as possible).
Mix in bowl with the egg, onion, flour and seasonings.
Potato Latkes with sour cream and apple sauce
Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in frying pan (non-stick skillet) and place spoonfuls of mixture in the hot oil. Cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and brown on second side. Drain on absorbant paper and serve hot.
Serve with sour cream and apple sauce.
Hanukkah Traditions in Israel
In Israel Hannukah is a holiday period (schools close for this period – similar to Winter break in the US or Term Break in Britain) and there are many activities and happenings for families and kids. Song festivals, musicals and children’s theatre are featured heavily over this holiday. The holiday often coincides with Christmas celebrations taking part around the country. This is felt more in Haifa, Nazareth and the north of Israel where there are large Christian communities.