Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

Hanukkah, also Hanukah, Chanukah, or Chanukkah, is the Festival of Lights celebrating the Maccabean victory over the Seleucids in 164 b.c.e. Arriving at the Temple to cleanse and rededicate it, the Maccabees found only enough sacred oil to light the menorah, the candelabrum, for one day. But a miracle occurred, and one day’s supply lasted for eight. Therefore, for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, an additional candle is inserted into the menorah, from right to left. The candles are lit by a shammas (or helper candle), from left to right, until on the final night an eight-candled menorah is aglow. After the candle ceremony, it is traditional to sing songs, play with a dreidel (spinning top), open presents, and eat latkes (fried potato pancakes) as well as other fried foods, including desserts fried in or made with oil. For example, Persian Jews eat zelebi, a snail-shaped, deep-fried sweet. See zalabiya. Jews in Latin America eat buñuelos, fried pastries introduced by Spanish settlers who likely learned to make them from Iberian Muslims.