Thursday, April 25, 2024

Hanukkah? Chanukah? Hanukka?


What does it mean? Why is it celebrated?

Source: The University of Utah, National Today,,,, Wikipedia, CBC Kids, USA Today

Is it HanukkahChanukah? Or Hanukka?

The confusion over the spelling comes because the name of the holiday is a Hebrew word and the English transliteration isn’t totally clear. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are 24 spellings for Hanukkah, during which Jews light candles on a menorah to celebrate the miracle of a one-day oil supply lasting eight after the Maccabean Revolt in the second century B.C.

What is Hanukkah?

The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt.

Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.

Like all Jewish holidays, Hanukkah begins at sundown the evening before the first day listed on the calendar.  As the Hanukkah story goes, there was enough oil in the lamp to reconsecrate the Temple for one night.  The miracle is that the oil lasted for eight nights.

What is a Menorah?

Since biblical times, the seven-branched menorah has symbolized Judaism. It first appears in Exodus, as a lighting fixture within the Tabernacle, a sort of portable temple used by the Israelites during their desert wanderings.

The Hanukkah celebration revolves around the kindling of a nine-branched menorah, known in Hebrew as the hanukiah. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown; the ninth candle, called the shamash (“helper”), is used to light the others. Jews typically recite blessings during this ritual and display the menorah prominently in a window as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired the holiday.

Are there special foods?

Traditionally during the holiday, Jews make and eat foods fried in oil, such as potato latkes and sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts, to commemorate the miracle.

The most popular and traditional foods served during Hanukkah are:

  • Latkes. (fried potato pancakes typically served with applesauce or sour cream)
  • Beef brisket.
  • Roasted chicken.
  • Kugel (a sweet, egg noodle casserole. The noodles are boiled and then baked with some sugar, eggs, sour cream and cottage cheese).
  • Matzo ball soup. (Matzah balls or matzo balls are Ashkenazi Jewish soup dumplings made from a mixture of matzah meal, beaten eggs, water, and a fat, such as oil, margarine, or chicken fat, traditionally served in a chicken broth.)
  • Rugelach. (a pastry made with cream-cheese dough that is rolled around a filling, such as nuts, jam, or chocolate) and baked.)
  • Sufganiyot (Jelly-Filled Doughnuts)
  • Challah. (Challah is a special bread of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, usually braided and typically eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Shabbat and major Jewish holidays. Ritually-acceptable challah is made of dough from which a small portion has been set aside as an offering.)

What do you drink on Hanukkah?

Manischewitz wine is a classic Hanukkah beverage

Besides lighting candles and eating fried food what else do you do?

The eight-day festival is a joyous occasion, seen in part as an authentically Jewish way to embrace the December holiday season and its traditions of kindling lights and giving gifts. Themes of Hanukkah include lessons in hope, light, dedication, and religious freedom.  In addition to lighting candles each night. Singing special songs, such as Ma’oz Tzur. Reciting the Hallel prayer.Playing the dreidel game, and giving Hanukkah gelt.

What is a dreidel?

The dreidel game is one of the most famous Hanukkah traditions. It was created as a way for Jews to study the Torah and learn Hebrew in secret after Greek King Antiochus IV had outlawed all Jewish religious worship in 175 BCE. Today we play as a way to celebrate a rich history and have fun with friends and family!

On the four sides of the dreidel appear four letters from the Hebrew alphabet:

Nun (נ)
Gimmel (ג)
Hey (ה)
Shin (ש)

Together nun, gimmel, hay and shin translate to “a great miracle happened there.”

What is gelt?

Gelt is Yiddish for money. In the Hanukkah tradition, gelt is a gift of chocolate coins or real money given to children.  Hanukkah gelt, is typically given to children and sometimes teachers, often in conjunction with the game of Dreidel.

So now you have insights into the basics of Hanukkah.  As a parting we bring you a recipe for potato latkes so you also can participate.

Cheers! (L’Chaim! )

Classic Potato Latkes

By Melissa Clark New York Times

Yield: About 3 dozen  Time: 45 minutes


2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and cut lengthwise into quarters

1 large onion (8 ounces), peeled and cut into quarters

2 large eggs

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt), plus more for sprinkling

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Safflower or other oil, for frying


  1. Using a food processor with a coarse grating disc, grate the potatoes and onion. Transfer the mixture to a clean dishtowel and squeeze and wring out as much of the liquid as possible.
  2. Working quickly, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder and pepper, and mix until the flour is absorbed.
  3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, pour in about 1/4 inch of the oil. Once the oil is hot (a drop of batter placed in the pan should sizzle), use a heaping tablespoon to drop the batter into the hot pan, cooking in batches. Use a spatula to flatten and shape the drops into discs. When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, about 5 minutes, flip. Cook until the second side is deeply browned, about another 5 minutes. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt while still warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.






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