Holiday Feature

The Hanukkah Table

Hanukkah (or Chanukah) begins at sundown (dates in November and December vary).



The holiday season includes observations and ceremonies from various cultures and religions, with one of the most widely observed being that of Hanukkah (Chanukah).

"The Festival of Lights" as it is also called, is celebrated for eight days, and a symbolic candle is lit on each day. A chanukiah is the correct name for the nine branched menorah used only on Chanukah. A menorah is a candelabra, but is usually represented by the seven branched version that is described in the Torah. The Chanukiah has nine branches. One for the eight nights candles are lighted, and a branch for the shamus, the helper candle that lights the other candles in the chanukiah. Essentially, a chanukiah is a menorah, but a menorah isn't a chanukiah.

Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated for eight days, commencing on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (November/December), to commemorate the victory of the Jews over the Hellenist Syrians in 165 BCE. This date usually falls in the middle of December in the modern Western calendar.


Following their victory, the Maccabees, sons of the Priestly Hasmonean family which led the Jews in their revolt against the Syrian overlords, entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem defiled by the Syrian invaders, cleansed it and dedicated it anew to the service of God. Then, in memory of their victory, the Maccabees celebrated the first Hanukkah. (Hanukkah is the Hebrew term for dedication.)

The Talmud, the body of Jewish oral law, relates how the Judean heroes, led by Judah Maccabee, were making ready to rededicate the Temple and were unable to find enough undefiled oil to light the lamps. However, in one of the Temple chambers, they finally came upon a small cruse of oil which, under normal circumstances, would have lasted only one evening. Miraculously, this small amount of oil kept the Temple lights burning, not for one night, but for all the eight nights until new oil fit for use in the temple could be obtained. This is the miracle commemorated by the kindling of the Chanukah lights.

As with all holidays, food plays a festive role in the Hanukkah. celebration. A typical meal would most certainly include "latkes," traditionally made as potato pancakes although our ingredients may be used. The latkes and other specialties are fried in oil, in remembrance of the miracle of the oil from the Temple.

For this Hanukkah. meal, we present a basic menu of contemporary and traditional dishes which may be served by themselves or in combination with savory latkes and other specialties.


Global Holiday Pageant

The Hanukkah Table

Jewish Recipes Guide


This page created December 1998; modified November 2016