Hanukkah Celebration: Festival of Lights

What is Hanukkah and Where did it come from?

       As winter approaches and the nights grow longer, the jewish community is coming together to celebrate Hanukkah. This is a festival that holds a special place in millions of hearts. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, which is celebrated by the lighting of the menorah, enjoying traditional foods, playing games and reflecting on historical events. 


       Additionally, Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees, a Jewish rebel group, over the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE. The story is intertwined with the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when there was only enough for one.


The Menorah

      Furthermore, the menorah is the most symbolic symbol of Hanukkah. Eight branches of the Menorah hold candles and one branch which is the ninth, known as the shamash (shelper), are used to light the other candles. Families across the world light the Hanukkah candles each night to celebrate the festival.


      Along with, gift giving is not traditional in this holiday but in some households they adopted the aspect of gift giving. Each night the family will exchange small presents, fostering a sense of joy and generosity during the festival. Most of the Hanukkah’s I see celebrated today includes gift-giving in there traditions. 


Traditional Foods

Sufganiyot (Jelly Donut)

Sufganiyot is deep fried dough filled with jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  



Latkes are also known as potato pancakes and are made from shallow fried shredded or mashed potatoes. These are served with sour cream and applesauce. 



Briskets are enjoyed on many jewish holidays, not just Hanukkah. Briskets are also enjoyed on Rosh Hashanah and Passover. 


Hanukkah gelt

Gelt was money given as a present during the festival of Hanukkah. In modern celebrations gelt is a chocolate coin covered with gold foil. 


Clearly, fried foods are an important part of Hanukkah. It represents the small amount of oil that miraculously burned for 8 days instead of just one when the jews rededicated the temple after overcoming oppression. 

Sufganiyot (Jelly Donut) Recipe

Here’s a recipe I enjoy!



  • all-purpose flour …3–1/4 to 3-3/4 cups
  • rapid rise yeast …2 envelopes (4-1/2 tsp.)
  • granulated sugar …2 tablespoons
  • salt …1 teaspoon 
  • milk …1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
  • butter …1/4 cup 
  • egg yolks …3
  • vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • strawberry jam …1/2 cup 



  1. Combine 2 cups flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixer bowl. Heat milk and butter to very warm (120°F to 130°F). Add to flour mixture with egg yolks; beat for 2 minutes at low speed. Continue adding flour until soft dough forms.
  2. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (about 4 to 6 minutes). Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll out dough on a lightly floured counter into a 12-inch circle, about 1/2-inch thick. Using a 3-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible.
  3. Place doughnuts about 2 to 3 inches apart on lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Re-roll and cut remaining dough. Cover doughnuts and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a deep fryer or deep pan to 350°F. While the oil heats up, prep your filling. Place the jam in a pastry bag fitted with a metal tip with a wide opening (you want the jam to be able to get through!). Set aside.
  5. Fry 2 to 3 doughnuts at a time, turning occasionally until well browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels slightly.

      Finally, toss the donuts in granulated sugar. Insert the pastry tip into the side of each donuts and firmly squeeze a few Tablespoons of jam into the center of the donut. Cool a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack serve warm. You will not regret making this one!

Playing Dreidel

      A spinning top known as a dreidel is a popular game played during The Festival of Lights. Children joyfully play dreidel during Hanukkah, spinning the top and exchanging gelt. Dreidel is also enjoyed by adults, the dreidel consists of four Hebrew letters Nun,Gimel, Hey and Shin which stands for Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means A great miracle happened there. People who play the game plays for chocolate coins, nuts, or other small treats. My family and I have fun with this game during Hanukkah and we always come up with different fun prizes every year.  

Hanukkah Today

      To conclude, the Festival of lights, serves a time for reflection, gratitude and joy. Each night of the celebration empowered faith, resilience and cultural traditions. All in all,  families come together to light the menorah, enjoy traditional treats and possibly engage in gift giving, the spirit of Hanukkah brings happiness to hearts and homes. Happy Hanukkah! 

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