Chanuka: The Festival of Lights!

Just saying the word Chanuka gives me the munchies for a steaming hot latke and a few presents, of course! I know, we always give ourselves much guilt over what we indulge on Chanuka…just give it up, eat and have a good time! Life is way too short to start counting calories on these special days!

Here is one of my delicious boys helping mami clean our Chanukiah (Chanuka menorah)

Chanuka is a celebration of freedom. On Chanuka we commemorate many amazing miracles. At the time Chanuka was instituted, Jerusalem was in the hands of the Syrians, who lived the Greek way…I guess this must mean the soldiers were tall, dark, handsome and wearing togas!  Our tiny army was able to defeat them with the guidance of Yehuda Maccabee and we were able to take back the Temple that had been ruined. The Jews were able to find just enough oil to perform the rededication of the Temple (the Hebrew word for dedication is Chanuka…did you know that?), and that oil lasted eight days. The Jews were once again free to practice their religion, vanquish assimilation, and discredit Greek “wisdom” –no offense to all my Greek friends! We light the Chanukiah (Chanuka menorah) to remember the rededication of the Temple.

Here I am teaching the kids the correct way to place the candles…read on to find out!

Today, we celebrate Chanuka by doing the very things the Syrian Greeks forbade us to do! We learn Torah and rejoice by singing beautiful Jewish melodies. Some give the children money or little presents to reward them for all the mitzvot (commandments) they perform. We eat lots of delicious oily food to remember the miracle of finding the oil. And last, we light a chanukiah in our front windows. This way, everyone is to witness that we have remained and triumphed and our lives are devoted to Judaism more now than ever!

You can almost read his thoughts, “FIRE! What else can I do with this fire!!”  Boys will be boys!

The lights in the chanukiah are set up from right to left (as you face the candelabra) but lit from left to right. That is, on the first night, the light is placed to the far right on the chanukiah; on the second day, we place the first light in that same spot, the far right, then add a candle to its left. But we light the second candle first. Persians (and most Sephardim) light only one chanukiah for the whole family.

A delicious Sufganiah…worth every single calorie!

Chanuka Menu

This time of year many friends and family members drop by to indulge in Chanuka celebrations. During the eight days, I probably fry hundreds of latkes and the dinners are very informal in nature. While latkes are not the traditional Chanuka food eaten in Iran, Persians have wonderful fried dishes that are easy enough to make at the last minute in case an extra handful of friends show up! I have (of course) included Sufganiot, Israeli-style doughnuts, in the cookbook. Sufganiot are not traditional Persian Jewish food, but if they are filled with vanilla pastry cream they become Pirashkee.  Besides, how can anyone survive Chanuka without them?! Here is a list of foods that would make anyone’s mouth salivate on Chanuka!

Persian Potato Latkes—Kookoo Sbzamini

Sour Apple Latkes—Kookoo Sib’e Torsh

Traditional Chanuka Latkes—Levivot

Jelly Doughnuts and PirashkeeSufganiot

Golden Dough Spheres Soaked in Rose Water Syrup—Bamieh

This is Bamieh…I like to call it the “Persian Churro!”…absolutely delectable!

I wish you all a very happy Chanuka!

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One Response to “Chanuka: The Festival of Lights!”

  1. Paulina Davoodi says:

    Yum! This sweet is great with persian tea. I love it!