The Foods of Hanukkah

Walking into a home with the delicious smell of frying potato latkes (pancakes) wafting through the house is a sure sign that Hanukkah has arrived. Though both the holidays of Hanukkah and Christmas come around the same time of the year, they are not related. Hanukkah is not a Jewish version of Christmas. And the Festival of Hanukkah has its own traditional food associated with it, a few of which we discuss below.

History of Hanukkah:

In 165 BCE in Israel a small band of Jewish patriots (The Maccabees) were victorious over the Greek Syrian invaders, who tried to ban the practice of Judaism. The word Hanukkah means “dedication.” When the Maccabees were again able to enter the Temple in Jerusalem after the battles, the Temple had been destroyed. The Jews needed to re-dedicate the Temple by re-lighting the seven branched candelabra (called a menorah), which hung there. They could only find oil enough to light the candelabra for one day. Yet, the menorah continued to burn for eight days, which is called,” the miracle of Hanukkah.” Thus, Hanukkah is called the Festival of Lights and is celebrated for eight days. This year Hanukkah is celebrated from December 10th – December 18th. And oil plays a significant part in the celebration of the holiday.

Latkes and Jelly doughnuts:

The traditional foods of Hanukkah revolve around fried foods, more specifically the use of oil to remind people of the miracle that occurred. No Hanukkah celebration would be complete without partaking in the cooking and eating of the potato latkes (pancakes). Many Jewish families have their own recipes. Of course, at Spice For Life, being a spice store, we have our own latke recipe that involves a little heat. Besides the traditional ingredients of potatoes, onions, and eggs we have added a touch of southern influence to the recipe. Hence the name, Spice For Life’s Latkes with a Southern Flare. We use both sweet potatoes and russet potatoes. For spices, we add some Cajun Seasoning and Ancho chili, which balances well with the mild potatoes. It also leaves a wonderful little tingling feel in the mouth. Just remember to keep that kitchen exhaust fan on high, as cooking with oil can get a little smoky.

The traditional dessert for Hanukkah is jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot in Hebrew). The doughnuts are dough that has been deep fried in oil and stuffed with jelly. It has been said that the jelly is also reminiscent of the miracle of Hanukkah, because as you bite into the doughnut you are surprised by the luscious jelly that comes oozing out. However, to tell the truth, making jelly doughnuts is very time consuming and messy. With so many wonderful bakeries and doughnut shops in cities throughout the country, our advice to you is buy some jelly doughnuts at your favorite place. Then enjoy and share them with your family and friends.

Spice For Life wishes everyone a happy holiday season!


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