For our non-Jewish readers, it’s the holiday also known as the “Festival of Lights,” when we remember the re-dedication of the Temple following Judah Maccabee’s victory over Antiochus. According to the story, victorious Maccabees could only find a small jug of oil that had remained uncontaminated, and although it only contained enough oil to sustain light for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time further oil could be obtained. This miracle is commemorated by lighting a special nine-branched candle-holder, called a menorah. One candle is lit anew during each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, until finally, on the eighth night, all the candles are lit. Children receive one gift each night, blessings are recited, games are played, and special foods are eaten. Though the celebration bears some resemblance to the celebration of Christmas and occurs during the same time of year, it is not a Jewish version of Christmas!
Speaking of Christmas- last week, I was in a large national chain store looking for Hanukkah candles. I had searched high and low, all over the store: the “Holiday” (Christmas) section, housewares, greeting cards, and toys….finally I gave up and asked an employee. He led me to a small endcap sandwiched in between the paperbacks and the giftwrap. I did find my candles, but that was about it! Aside from a small felt wall-hanging with Velcro candles and flames (it is going to be so much fun for my toddler to use!), some random menorahs, a few packages of paper napkins, and plates with dreidels on them, there wasn’t much to choose from. Seeing Hanukkah shoved aside like that, while the rest of the store was decked out in so much red and green it could have been the workshop of Mr. Claus himself, would have been almost comical if it hadn’t been so sad!
As a celebrator of both holidays, I want to encourage those who don’t know much about Hanukkah to do some research. There are lots of fun activities and great recipes to try with your kids that can help teach them about the holiday. Help your children build an understanding of people who are different than they are, and make them more culturally aware as future members of society. Latkes, anyone? In fact, make ‘em healthy: I found a recipe for apple latkes at smittenkitchen.com the other day! I’ll share it below.
Makes 12 2 to 3-inch latkes
1 pound tart, firm apples such as Granny Smiths (2 large or 3 medium)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
Butter (about 2 tablespoons)
Rich plain yogurt, sour cream or crème fraîche for serving
Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a baking sheet inside. Peel and core apples and then grate them, either on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor, on the shredding blade. Transfer to a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth sling and wring out as much juice as you can into a small bowl. Set it aside if you wish to make a dessert sauce with it later.
Transfer grated apple to a medium bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a small dish, whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking powder and toss with the apples, coating them evenly. Whisk eggs in this small dish until lightly beaten and stir into apple-lemon-flour mixture.
Heat a large skillet to medium with one tablespoon butter. Once it has coated the pan, drop tablespoons full of apple batter in little piles, gently pressing them a bit flatter with a spatula. Fry until they are nicely brown underneath, about 3 to 5 minutes, then flip and continue to cook until they are browned and crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels and transfer to preheated oven to keep warm. Add a pat of the remaining butter for each new batch in the pan, and repeat with remaining batter.
About the Blogger:
Hi, I’m Carlee! I teach public school in Middle-of-Nowhere, Virginia. My hubby and I have been married for four years and have a daughter who is two years old. I also give private music lessons and enjoy the arts, animals, and children- but spending time with my beautiful family is my favorite pastime!