How Hanukkah Works

Hanukkah Foods

Latkes on a plate with dipping sauce on the side Latkes on a plate with dipping sauce on the side
Latkes, and other fried Hanukkah foods, serve as a reminder of the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight nights. sbossert/Getty Images


Commemorating the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight nights, Hanukkah foods are usually fried in oil. Latkes are the most notable example of these fried foods. Latkes are potato pancakes found in many Jewish homes during Hanukkah. They are made by frying small pancakes of grated potatoes held together by eggs and/or milk. They are usually eaten with apple sauce or sour cream.


In Israel, the custom is to serve sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts fried in oil, on Hanukkah. There, you can buy them on almost any street corner. They are very similar to the jelly doughnuts we know in America. They are filled with jam and covered with powdered sugar. Sufganiyot are a reminder of the cakes hurriedly prepared for the Maccabees as they went into battle.

In our day and age, Hanukkah has taken on some additional meaning because it is so near to Christmas. Nowadays, people often shop for Hanukkah gifts like they do for Christmas gifts, and the Hanukiyah has become a recognized symbol of the holiday season.

The Festival of Lights is a time for Jewish families to rejoice, play games, give gifts and light the candles. It commemorates a triumph over religious persecution and the importance of a 2,000-year-old miracle.

For more information on Chanukah, Judaism in general and other holidays, check out the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links