Hanukkah, the festival of lights, also celebrated

In the holiday seasons, it’s often easy to forget that Christmas isn’t the only holiday being celebrated.

In the holiday seasons, it’s often easy to forget that Christmas isn’t the only holiday being celebrated.

It’s sometimes easy to forget about another holiday just as important to the believers in the Jewish faith: Hanukkah.

The festival of lights, as it is also known, began Sunday at sundown.

Hanukkah is said to have begun after one jug of clean pure olive oil was found in the temple when the priests came to rededicate it after gaining freedom from the Syrians. The oil was used to light the menorah and was only expected to last one night — but instead lasted eight nights.

Menorahs, which come in all shapes and sizes, are traditionally

placed in the window to reflect and bring more light. A prayer is said each night and there are traditional holiday songs.

There is of course more to Hanukkah than the lighting of the menorah. Traditional food is also part of the celebration, including latkes and sufganiyot.

Latkes are potato pancakes that are cooked in pure olive oil, the same type used to light the temple menorah. The latkes are a mixture of grated potatoes, eggs, onions and flour; they are crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. They are served hot and covered with applesauce, cinnamon and sugar or sour cream. The Maccadees soldiers — who fought for and established Jewish independence in the Land of Israel for about 100 years, from 164 B.C. to 63 B.C. — ate latkes made from cheese, vegetables or fruits that were brought to them on the battlefield.

Sufganiyot is another food cooked in oil that is similar to a doughnut without the hole, and is sometimes filled with jelly or sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon.

Dreidel games are a big part of the Jewish culture. A dreidel is a spinning top with four sides. Each side has a Hebrew letter that has a meaning. In English the four letters mean “A Miracle Happened Here.”

Each player plays with chocolate coins called gelt. Each

player antes in one coin, then players take turns spinning their dreidel. When the dreidel lands, each of the four letters tells the player what to do: Nun — do nothing; Gimmel — take all; Hey — take half; Shin — put one in.

The game continues until the players have run out of coins. The game was popular during the rule of Antiochus before the Maccabees’ revolt. When Jews gathered to study the Torah, they had the top ready in case they heard soldiers approaching. If the soldiers appeared, they would hide the holy scriptures and pretend to play with the dreidel.

Contact Kyra Low: klow@fedwaymirror.com