This year Hanukkah (Chanukah), the Festival of Lights, begins Thursday evening, December 10, 2020. It celebrates the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greek regime of Antiochus. The Greeks attempted to Hellenize the Jews and forbid many Jewish practices and many Jews willingly complied. But a small band of the devout, led by the Matitiyahu the Priest and his son Judah Maccabee, led a successful retaliation against them. When they recaptured the Temple and relit the Menorah, a vial of pure oil sufficient to burn one day burned for 8 days straight – the 8 days of Hanukkah.
We light the menorah for the eight days of Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle. A menorah is lit in every household, and also in the synagogue. Special blessings are recited when we light the menorah.
On Hanukkah we spin the dreidel, a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side (sivivon in Hebrew). We play the dreidel game, which has deeper meaning and invites “inspiration from above.”
On Hanukkah, in commemoration of the miracle of the oil, we eat foods cooked with olive oil. Enjoy these fried potato pancake – latke recipes. For the Israeli version of “oily food,” use this how-to guide for great homemade doughnuts, sufganiyot.