The Jewish Chanukah Festival celebrates events which occurred during the 2nd century BCE Maccabean Revolt. In particular, burning one day’s amount of oil for eight full days inside the Temple in Jerusalem is considered by Jews as a divine miracle. Ever since, Jews all over the world light candles on a nine-branched menorah to commemorate this event.
Therefore all food cooked during this eight day holiday period must be cooked in oil and preferably olive oil as this is what was burnt in the Jerusalem temple. Although Hanukkah's starting date moves with the moon, it almost always falls in December. Traditional Jewish foods eaten at this time include Latkes (potato pancakes), gelt (chocolate candy in the shape of coins) and sufganiot (jelly donuts).
Similar to rosti and called Latkes in Yiddish and Levivot in Hebrew these potato pancakes are of course fried and are served with apple sauce and soured cream. Nowadays Jewish cooks are more inventive with their traditional family recipes and will often include other ingredients such as sweet potatoes or cheese. One Hanukkah food tradition is eating dairy products, especially cheese, in commemoration of the Jewish heroine Judith (Yehudit). She is said to have saved her village from the Syrrians by giving their leader cheese and copious amounts of wine, then beheading him when he was drunk.
Sufganiot are deep fried jelly filled doughnuts. Small pieces of dough are deep fried before being injected with a fruit jelly and dusted in sugar sometimes they are even filled with chocolate. These sweet treats are especially popular with children celebrating Chanukah. The children also often help to make Hanukkah cookies in different shapes that resemble Hanukkah symbols such as the Star of David and Menorah candle holders, many kitchen and specialty shops sell cookie cutters in these shapes.
An evening dinner menu at Chanukah often involves roasted chicken, a beef brisket or even a beef tongue. Following this an after dinner game of driedel is often played which is a game of chance using a four sided spinning top. Gelt, which means money in Yiddish, are chocolate coins that are used for betting in the game but of course when the game is over the winner gets to eat the most chocolate.
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