A World of Hanukkah Traditions
Happy Hanukkah (or Chanukah) to our Jewish friends across the globe! No matter how you spell it (according to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are 24 different ways!), the star of this eight-day holiday is the nightly menorah lighting. But depending on where you’re celebrating around the world, the traditions look—and taste—a little different.
Hanukkah began in Israel, after a small group of Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies of the time to win their country back. When they lit the menorah at the reclaimed temple, they thought they only had enough oil to keep the menorah burning for one day, yet it miraculously stayed aglow for eight.
Today across Israel, Jews proudly display and light their menorahs every night of Hanukkah. Sufagniyot, or jelly donuts, are one of the country’s favorite treats at this time of the year because they’re fried in oil as a reminder of the origin of the holiday.
Jews from Eastern Europe are credited with another Hanukkah food fried in oil: latkes, or potato pancakes. When Eastern European Jews immigrated to North America, they brought the delicious tradition with them. Latkes are usually eaten with a dollop of applesauce or sour cream.
In Colombia, Jewish immigrants took the tradition of fried potato latkes and incorporated a favorite local fruit: plantains. Now, Jews in Colombia enjoy Hanukkah patacones, slices of plantain fried in oil.
In Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco, the seventh day of Hanukkah honors the heroines of the story, Hannah and Judith, who helped defeat the army. In those countries as well as Yemen, the seventh day of Hanukkah kicks off Chag Ha’Banot, or Festival of the Daughters. At these festivities in Morocco, you’ll find an orange-flavored spin on the traditional Hanukkah jelly donut.
Games are also a part of Hanukkah, and dreidel is one of the most popular. Players take turns spinning a four-sided dreidel top with the Hebrew letters: nun, gimmel, hey, or shin. (The letters stand for “a great miracle happened there.”) When the dreidel stops, whatever letter is faceup determines what the player takes from or adds to a “pot” of tokens (which can include coins and small treats).
These soft and yummy dreidels are for eating, not spinning, but are fun to make together just the same!
Frosting or chocolate hazelnut spread
Chocolate candy kisses
Decorative gel or icing, preferably blue
* Note: You may choose to use kosher marshmallows, which are available in many grocery stores.
Step one: Push a pretzel into the flat side of each marshmallow, so that about ⅔ of the pretzel is still visible.
Step two: Put a small amount of gel icing or frosting or hazelnut spread on the bottom of a chocolate kiss and stick it to the unpunctured end of your marshmallow.
Step three: Use the decorative gel or icing to write one of the four Hebrew dreidel letters on each marshmallow:
ש ה ג נ
Let the gel or icing dry (it may take a few hours), then enjoy! Store the remaining marshmallow dreidels in a loosely covered container.
Share your favorite (or new!) Hanukkah traditions with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with #littlepassports.