You Don't Have To Be Jewish To Enjoy These 6 Hanukkah Traditions
Shalom! Hanukkah is upon us. For those who celebrate or friends who are curious, I want to share 6 classic traditions with you. But first, do you know what Hanukkah is and why it is celebrated over eight crazy nights?
Hanukkah is the annual Jewish holiday called Festival of Lights, that celebrates the victory of Jewish troops fighting for religious freedom, and led by Judah Maccabee, over the Greek soldiers. The Jews rebelled after the King had stopped them from observing all their rituals and beliefs and forced them to start worshipping Greek Gods. The miracle of Hanukkah is how a little bit of oil, only enough to light a lamp for 1 day managed to last eight while the Jews fought the defining battle to survive and reclaim the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And, as you may have imagined, the miracle of the oil is the reason the holiday is celebrated over eight days.
Without further ado - here's how to have a Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday)!
1) Let There Be Light! - The lighting of one or more Menorahs is the main Hanukkah tradition. One candle is added each of the eight nights onto a special candelabrum that has one extra candle, “the shamas", that serves to light the rest.
2) A Lot Of Traditional Food - What makes traditional Hanukkah food, traditional is that it is cooked in oil, as a tribute to the miracle of purified oil.
One favorite Hanukkah food is potato latkes (potato pancakes). Potato latkes are prepared in a variety of ways. Here is one recipe:
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 1 cup peeled and grated potatoes
- 1/4 cup grated onion
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon all purpose-flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Using a strainer, squeeze all the juice from the grated potatoes and onion.
- Take a large bowl, put the grated potatoes, grated onion, egg, all purpose flour, salt, and mix well.
- In a large heavy bottomed skillet, over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot.
- Pour two tablespoons full of potato mixture into the hot oil. Level the latkes with the back of the spoon so that they form 1/2 inch thick patties
- Fry the latkes over medium flame for 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
- Serve hot with applesauce, sour cream or other topping.
3) Giving Gifts and Playing Hide and Seek - Gifts are exchanged during the festival of Hanukkah. Jewish children receive small gifts from their elder family members. Many families play a fun game of “hide and seek", where the children, using clues, have to find their presents that are hidden around the house.
4) Oh Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel! - A gambling game called "dreidel" is a popular Hanukkah tradition. People play this game with a square spinning top. The game is most often played for chocolate coins (or “gelt").
5) Singing Hanukkah songs - Hanukkah is celebrated loudly with Jews chanting Hanukkah prayers and songs in full throat. There are many Hanukkah songs to engage us all. In addition to the recent classic from Adam Sandler, here are some of the favorites:
- "Chanukah, O Chanukah"
- "I Have A Little Dreidel" -- Traditional
- "Light One Candle" -- Peter Yarrow
- "I'm a Little Dreydl" -- Preschool song by Judy Caplan Ginsburgh
- "Chanukah Song" -- Steven Carr Reuben and Judy Caplan Ginsburgh
- "Light a Candle for Chanukah" -- Debbie Friedman
- "S'veevon (Sivivon)" -- Traditional
- "Take A Potato"
- "Latka (Latke)"-- Geof Johnson
- "Judah Maccabee, the Hammer" -- Peter and Ellen Allard
- "Chanukah Rap" -- Craig Taubman
- "If I Had a Dreidle" -- Geof Johnson
- "Eight Candles" -- Malvina Reynolds
- "Hanuka (Ladino)" -- Judy Frankel
- "Tzur Chayeinu" -- Rabbi Joe Black
Last but not least, the Jelly donuts!
6) Eating Jelly Donuts (Hanukkah Sufganiyot) - Once again it's food related and oil is a key ingredient. However, this time we are having a snack or dessert. Glazed yeast doughnuts (Hanukkah Sufganiyot) are yet another mouth-watering traditional Hanukkah recipe. Doughnuts are also made with variations. One of the recipes follows – feel free to stuff jelly in the middle:
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
- 1 pkt active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup olive oil (for deep frying)
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 lb. powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp all purpose flour
- Hot water
- Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water and keep it aside.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter with salt, sugar, and milk. Set it aside until lukewarm.
- Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and mix it with 1 1/2 cup of flour.
- Add the dissolved yeast and then add 1/2 cup of flour. Mix it well.
- Add beaten eggs into the mixture and then add another 1 1/2 cups of flour into the mixture. Beat it well to form a smooth paste. Set the mixture aside for 5 minutes.
- Knead the dough for roughly 5 minutes.
- Pour the dough in a bowl greased with butter. Cover the bowl with a lid and then keep it in a warm place for at least 1 1/2 hours so that the dough doubles its quantity.
- Now, pat the dough onto a floured pastry cloth in desired thickness.
- Cut it using a floured doughnut cutter.
- Cover it with a towel and keep it in a warm place for 1/2 hour so that it doubles its quantity.
- Preheat the deep fryer.
- Fry the doughnuts until golden brown for 2 minutes.
- Prepare the glaze by thoroughly mixing all the ingredients for glazing.
- Dip warm doughnuts in the glaze.
- Your glazed yeast doughnuts are ready! Serve warm.
Well, that about does it for our round of traditions. Does your family or friends embrace any other traditions to celebrate the holiday? We hope you and your family have a wonderful and joyous Hanukkah.