A lot of major holidays have different foods associated with them -- Thanksgiving, for instance, is generally associated with turkey. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is no different! Latkes are definitely considered one of the traditional Hanukkah foods...but why?
Why Do People Eat Latkes for Hanukkah?
Turns out, there's a very good reason that people eat these delicious fried potato pancakes for the Jewish holiday that's also known as the festival of lights. Kosher.com reported that the holiday "celebrates the victory of the Jewish forces, led by the Chashmonaim (AKA, "the Maccabees"), against their Syrian-Greek oppressors." This happened in In 164 BCE, according to CBS News.
After the Jews were able to recapture their Temple and do a rededication of its altar following this event, they were able to light the menorah there with oil, but they only had enough to last for one day. However, their supply "miraculously lasted eight days, until a new supply of ritually-pure oil could be procured," Kosher reported.
To commemorate the event, the Jewish people now traditionally eat fried foods cooked in oil. Those foods include latkes, but sufganiyot -- a round jelly doughnut -- and rugelach are other popular Hanukkah recipes.
Traditionally, gelt (AKA money) was given to children as a gift for Hanukkah, and that has today turned into the practice of gifting them with Hanukkah-themed chocolate coins. They are sometimes used to play Dreidel.
How Do You Make Latkes?
Latkes are usually made with grated potatoes and onions mixed with eggs, as well as some flour or matzah meal, plus salt and pepper, according to Chowhound. The mix is then formed into rounds that are fried in hot oil until they're crispy. (Forward recommended using vegetable oil, olive oil, shortening, or even butter.)
Often, potato latkes are eaten with sour cream or applesauce, and they make a great side dish.
What Are Some Other Jewish Foods?
There are, of course, many other Jewish holidays and holy days besides Hanukkah, and different food associated with those days. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, for example, special challah bread is usually made. For Shabbat, a baked noodle pudding called kugel is traditionally enjoyed. Traditional noodles known as lokshen are another Shabbat favorite.
For Passover, many Jewish people eat matza and sometimes make matzo ball soup. For Shavuot, blintzes are traditionally eaten.
Interestingly, brisket is a popular dish in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine and is often served for Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Hanukkah, and other holidays in the community. It's often served with veggies like onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots.
Babka is another bread or cake recipe enjoyed by many in the Jewish community, and honestly, the list goes on. Suffice to say, there are some delicious foods associated with Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays, and when it comes to Hanukkah, it all came down to a little bit of miraculous oil.