Hanukkah: The History, Traditions, and Foods of the Festival of Lights
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival that commemorates the Maccabees' triumph against the Syrians. The holiday commemorates when the Jews reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to God. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights and is celebrated for eight days and nights.
During Hanukkah, Jews eat foods that are fried in oil, like latkes and doughnuts. There are many traditions associated with Hanukkah, including playing dreidel and giving gifts. In this blog post, we will explore the history, traditions, and foods of Hanukkah!
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday that lasts for eight days and nights. It commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was reclaimed and purified by the Maccabees in 165 B.C.E.
Traditionally, during Hanukkah, a menorah (a candelabrum with nine branches) is lit every night with a special ninth candle called the shamash, or helper candle. Each night, an additional candle is lit until all eight candles are burning on the final night of Hanukkah.
History of Hanukkah
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the victory of a small group of Jews over the larger Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C.E. The victory allowed the Jews to rededicate and purify their holy temple in Jerusalem, which had been defiled by the Syrian Greeks.
During the rededication of the temple, there was only enough oil to light the menorah (a candelabra used in religious ceremonies) for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days and nights, hence why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights. Each night, a candle on the menorah is lit to commemorate this miracle.
Traditional Food Enjoyed on Hanukkah
Some traditional Hanukkah foods include latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and brisket.
- Latkes: are fried in oil to commemorate the story of the oil lasting for eight nights in the temple. - Sufganiyot: also involves frying in oil, and their jelly filling represents the cruse of oil.
- Brisket: is a popular main dish for the holiday, as it can be cooked slowly in a braise and served with traditional side dishes like mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables.
- Other common dishes include kugel (a type of casserole), tzimmes (a sweet stew made with carrots and dried fruits), and traditional Jewish salads like chopped liver or herring.
- Dried fruits and nuts are also often served as snacks during the holiday.
Overall, Hanukkah foods all have a common theme of being cooked in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting for eight nights in the temple. This is why fried foods are popular during the holiday, but there is also a mix of savory and sweet dishes to enjoy.
Texan-Style Smoked Brisket Recipe
- 1 (12-14) pound whole brisket
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- Trim excess fat from the brisket and mix the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Rub the mixture onto the entire brisket.
- Place the brisket in a smoker preheated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for about 1 hour per pound, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes before slicing against the grain. Serve with a side of BBQ sauce. Enjoy!
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1/2 cup raspberry jam
- powdered sugar for dusting
- In a small bowl, combine warm milk and sugar. Sprinkle in yeast and let sit for about 5 minutes until it becomes foamy.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the yeast mixture, vegetable oil, and eggs. Gradually add in flour, salt, and nutmeg until dough forms. Knead the dough for about 8 minutes on a floured surface.
- Place dough in a greased bowl and cover it with a towel. Let sit in a warm area for 1 1/2 hours to let it rise.
- Roll out dough on a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick and use a biscuit cutter or glass cup to cut out circles. Place dough circles on a greased baking sheet and let rise for another 30 minutes.
- In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Carefully drop in dough circles and fry for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.
- Place sufganiyot on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Let cool slightly before filling with raspberry jam using a piping bag or spoon. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy it warm!
Overall, Hanukkah is a joyous holiday that celebrates the miracle of the oil lasting for eight nights in the temple. It also brings families and communities together to enjoy traditional foods cooked in oil, gifts, and lighting of the menorah each night. We hope you enjoyed learning about Hanukkah- the festival of lights.