How the ‘miracle of oil’ lit up the Jewish festival lights

How the 'miracle of oil' lit up the Jewish festival lights

This is taken from the yeast dough pastry mentioned in the telmood. These pastries were cooked in oil and were called sufganin (absorbent) because they absorbed a lot of oil in cooking.

In more northern communities, where olive oil was scarce and expensive, goose or chicken fat was often used for frying so that potato pancakes, apple fritters and other fried foods without dairy became common.

Why are dairy products popular during Hanukkah?

During the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, the city of Bethulia in Judea was besieged and its population was on the verge of surrender due to water scarcity.

A young woman named Judith requested a meeting with Nebuchadnezzar’s top general, the Assyrian Holofernes, who was directing a siege outside the city walls.

She enters the Holofernace camp and seduces him, feeding him sweet cheese so that he becomes thirsty and wine is served to him so that he falls asleep. She then killed him and returned to the city with his scattered head.

The Assyrians, having lost their leader, fled, and Israel survived. Judith remained unmarried all her life and in remembrance of her bravery and purity the Jews make sure to eat dairy products during Hanukkah.

Nowadays, although olive oil is cheaper, dairy is often added on top of lettuce – usually in the form of a lingala of sour cream.

Is it Chanuka or Hanukkah?

In Hebrew, Hanukkah is pronounced with the letter ‘chat’. The letter “H” makes the closest sound, so both names work and can be used.

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Celebrating Hanukkah with scattering

Games are often played during the festival, including dreadle spinning which is the Yiddish word spinning top.

The dreadle is a pointed, four-sided top that can be made to spin on its pointed base. Dreadles are usually made of plastic or wood and there is a Hebrew letter that is printed or imprinted on each side of the dreadlocks.

These four letters form the acronym: “Ness Gadol Haih Sham,” “There was a great miracle”; A reference to the Hanukkah miracle of oil.


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