Hanukkah History, Traditions and Foods

Miranda Figueroa and Salma Rojas, Staff Writers

 “I gather with my family, light candles on the Menorah, open gifts, eat traditional Hanukkah food, play the dreidel game, and recite prayers one day at a time,” said Senior Elizabeth Slavustkiy.

   According to the History Channel, Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian-Greek army. When the son of Antiochus III came into power, he took away the freedom for Jews to practice their religion, tried to get them to worship Greek gods, and killed thousands of people. He even destroyed the Holy Temple and made it fit for worshipping Greek gods. The Jews led a rebellion and, in the span of two years, they successfully drove the Syrians out (history.com). 

   “Jews celebrate Hanukkah to remember the Jews who revolted and fought for their religious freedom,” said Sophomore Raya Schorr.

   It is quite common to hear about the Jewish Holiday of Hanukkah, but it isn’t common to hear about some of the stories behind some of their delicious dishes. According to the Chicago Tribune, a story about Judith, that is not very well known, explains the reasoning behind some of the ingredients included in many of their dishes. The story of Judith’s victory is about a woman who went over to the enemy’s side, accompanied by a few cheesecakes and some wine. She knew exactly the way to a man’s heart. She gave the Assyrian general, Holofernes, a visit with these treats in hopes to achieve something big that night. She stuffed him with cheesecake and got him drunk with wine. Once he blacked out, she chopped his head off with his own sword (Chicagotribune.com).

   The Assyrians wanted to abolish Judaism, but Judith stopped the threat to all of the Jews in Bethulia. In order to scare the Assyyrians, she brandished Holofernes’ head. Just as she wanted, it scared them off and they were no longer a threat. This victory won through cheesecakes and wine is the reason why so many dishes served during Hanukkah celebrations contain lots of dairy and cheese (Chicagotribune.com).

   In addition, according to the Spruce Eats website, a lot of their traditional dishes, like Latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) contain oil or are fried in oil. This is because it symbolizes the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days and nights (thespruceeats.com). According to NPR, the Jewish rebels were fighting for their freedom, because the tyrant king was trying to force them to worship Greek gods. When they were trying to reclaim the Holy Temple, they wanted to light up the Menorah, but they had nowhere near enough oil to last for long. The amount of oil they had was only enough to supply them for one night. The reason this story is important is because the oil miraculously lasted eight days and nights instead of just one night. Due to this, Jews incorporate oil into a lot of their traditional dishes used to celebrate Hanukkah (npr.org).

   Hanukkah is a special religious holiday and is a way for Jews to celebrate their religious freedom and their ability to overcome adversity.