- JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images
- Hanukkah is an awesome holiday.
- Fried foods like latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly donuts), and bimuelos (fried dough balls) are delicious.
- Lighting the menorah brings friends, families, and communities together.
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Many Jewish holidays can be summed up as “We fought, we won, now let’s eat,” and Hanukkah is no exception.
The story goes that while the Jews were living under the Greek empire around 166 BC, King Antiochus IV outlawed Judaism and defiled the Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem by sacrificing pigs on the altar. A small Jewish army called the Maccabees led a rebellion against the Greeks and won. When they returned to the Temple to relight the ritual menorah (candelabra), they only found enough oil to last one day, but it miraculously lasted eight.
Jewish people commemorate the Maccabees’ victory during Hannukah by lighting a menorah for eight nights and eating fried foods made with oil.
Hanukkah is one of the most recognizable, widely celebrated Jewish holidays around the world – for good reason. Here are 13 reasons why we can’t get enough of the Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah is eight days long.
- Courtesy of Matt Paretsky
That’s eight days of parties, presents, and festive foods.
Latkes, fried potato pancakes traditionally eaten on Hanukkah, are delicious.
- Courtesy of Deborah Lakritz
They go perfectly with applesauce, sour cream, and a variety of dipping sauces.
Sufganiyot are jelly doughnuts. They are also a traditional Hanukkah food and they are also delicious.
- Courtesy of Tamar Lakritz
In addition to a jelly filling, some sufganiyot are filled with chocolate or custard.
Jews of Sephardic ancestry also make fried doughnut fritters called bimuelos.
- Courtesy of Sarah Aroeste
Chocolate coins, also known as “gelt” (Yiddish for “money”), make great gifts and add a decorative touch to any table.
- Derek Hatfield/Shutterstock
They come in milk and dark chocolate varieties.
Real “gelt” — giving gifts of money — is also a thing.
Because of Hanukkah’s proximity to Christmas, some people have a custom to give gifts of money instead of material goods in order to distinguish the holiday traditions.
The dreidel game is strangely addictive.
- Courtesy of Liza Wohlberg
“Dreidel” is Yiddish for “spinning top.” It has four sides with a different Hebrew letter on each one. Players start with a supply of coins, chocolate or otherwise, and take turns spinning. Depending on which letter the top lands on, they put a coin in the middle, skip their turn, win half of the coins, or take home the entire pot.
Legend has it that when the Greeks outlawed Jewish practices, people would continue studying sacred texts in secret and whip out this simple game if anyone asked what they were doing.
Hanukkah songs are great, and more are written every year.
- Saturday Night Live/YouTube
Because you don’t hear Hanukkah songs blasted in shopping malls starting from Thanksgiving, you can actually enjoy them. And Jewish a cappella groups like the Maccabeats and Y-Studs put out Hannukkah-themed parodies of popular hits every year, so the playlist never feels stale.
Hearing new Jewish music live at Hanukkah concerts is even better.
Hanukkah concerts often include latkes and sufganiyot as part of the ticket price. Win-win.
Hanukkah parties are, as the kids say, lit.
Good food, good music – what more can you ask for from a holiday party?
You’ve heard of Christmas tree lighting events, but have you heard of Hanukkah menorah lighting events?
- Mario Tama/Getty Images
Publicizing the miracle of Hanukkah is an important tradition with origins in the Talmud. Many organizations hold public menorah lightings in cities around the world.
In individual homes, lit menorahs are often placed in or near windows so that they’re visible to the outside.
- Courtesy Tova Kamioner
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to light the flames, recite the blessings, and sing a song or two, but it’s a memorable tradition.
Lighting the menorah is a beautiful way to gather loved ones and communities together.
- Courtesy of Galia Godel
Holiday lights can create some eye-catching displays, but cozying up to watch flickering candles burn down on a winter night has a magic all its own.