As Jews across Long Island prepare for to celebrate Hanukkah, the Long Island Mamas thought we’d give you a brief ‘Hanukkah 101′ lesson (for those of you who may not know where Hanukkah comes from or how it is celebrated), and share ways in which you and your family can celebrate this joyous holiday!
BACKGROUND: Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights and commemorates a victory of religious freedom. In the second century, King Antiochus captured the Temple, one of the most holy sites in Judaism. Led by Judah the Macabee, the Jews revolted. They eventually reclaimed their house of worship. They wanted to light the golden Menorah, but only a small container of oil remained. It was only enough for a single night, but it miraculously burned for eight nights – long enough for new oil to be made.
CELEBRATION: To remember the eight nights that the oil burned for, Chanukah is celebrated for eight days. Families will light their menorah (a candelabra with 9 branches) say a blessing, and then most families exchange gifts; usually eight gifts, one for each night.
There are other ways to enjoy Hanukkah as well… PLAY A GAME! The dreidel is a four-sided top. Possibly one of the most well-known symbols of Chanukah, the rules of the dreidel game are simple and fun.
Players gamble with gelt (chocolate coins) which can be purchased in most local grocery or drug stores, though a Kings Park vendor makes multiple varieties, even a nut-free version!
READ A BOOK!
- Elmo’s Little Dreidel, by Naomi Kleinberg — Babies and preschoolers just love Elmo. In his latest adventure, he celebrates Chanukah!
- Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten, by Daniel Pinkwater — Yetta the Chicken was an honorary mother to Spanish-speaking parrots. One night, she discovers a kitten lost in a snowdrift and wants to adopt him, too. The parrots are initially skeptical, but this blended animal family learns the importance of taking care of each other. Recommended for ages 3-7.
- There’s No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein, by Susan Sussman — Aimed at ages 8+, this story focuses on the friendship of two girls, Heather and Robin. Robin is Jewish and Heather is Christian. Can they find a way to celebrate their holidays together? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
MUSIC! Chanukah music crosses all genres and tastes, and appears in most major world languages. All of it’s beautiful, and I’m sure you didn’t know that some well-known (and some lesser-known) artists have amazing Chanukah hits:
- Barenaked Ladies – Chanukah, Oh Chanukah
- Macabeats – Burn; Candelight; Shine
- Adam Sandler – The Chanukah Song
- Deborah Friedman – Multiple songs
- Matisyahu – Happy Chanukah; Miracle
- Peter, Paul, and Mary – Light One Candle
- Kenny Ellis – Sevivon Sov Sov Sov
- The LeeVees – How Do You Spell Hanukkah?
- The Laurie Berkner Band - Candle Chase
- 2 lbs (1 kg) potatoes, grated
- 2 large eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. paprika (optional)
- 1 heaping tbsp. dried parsley
- ½ medium yellow onion, or 6-8 scallions, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 heaping tbsp. flour (optional; this absorbs leftover liquid but makes the batter more pancake-like)
- Oil for frying (I like sunflower or vegetable oil, though olive oil is traditional)
- Place grated potatoes into a colander, then run cold water over them. Squeeze potatoes to remove as much liquid as possible. Put potatoes in a mixing bowl.
- Add onions to bowl. Toss with lemon juice.
- Beat eggs and seasonings. Pour over potato mixture. Mix well.
- Coat the bottom of a heavy skillet with oil. Each latke should be two tablespoons, or as much as 1/4 cup of the mixture. Drop into the hot oil. Flatten gently, and lower the heat so that the fritters cook through evenly. When one side is brown, flip and brown the other.
- Lift out and serve hot. Garnish with apple sauce OR sour cream.
…From our family to yours Happy Hanukkah!
By Rachel Minkowsky
Photo Credit: Flickr, pixabay, americangreetings.com, wikipedia