Happy Hanukka!

My Hanukkah dreidel collection

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the festival of lights! For us, this means that I will go to the market and buy big bags of potatoes, onions, apples, cooking oil, candles and sour cream. In the afternoon I’ll put up the decorations and in the evening I’ll start to make potato latkes and apple sauce. Yummy! 

One of my favorite dreidels of my collection, found at the flea market.

We turn on the festive Hanukkah music and the girls start to dance around as I put the Hanukkias on the kitchen table.  We look at my dreidel collection and play with the tops to see who’s will spin the longest. The girls help me to peel, grate and cut up the potatoes, onions and apples. They often wear swimming goggles while grating the onions to keep from crying!

Clown dreidel from my collection

My husband reads a holiday prayer in Hebrew and we light the menorah. There are 9 candle, 8 for the eight nights of Hanukkah and the 9th candle is the shamash, the candle we use to light all the others. We light one candle each night. We give the girls each a small gift every night and sometimes friends from abroad send packages. Giving gifts at Hanukkah is more of an American tradition; everyone does their holiday a little differently but Israelis usually light candles, give candy or geld (money) and attend children’s theater over the Hanukkah vacation.

My oldest daughter Lili's first dreidel.

Dreidels (Sevivone in Hebrew-means turn around) have four letters on them that stand for: Nes godol hayam sham a great miracle happened there (Israel) OR Nes godol hayam po a great miracle happened here. All dreidels will have a shin on them to say a great miracle happened there (Israel), except the Israeli dreidels, they say: a great miracle happened here. The dreidel game goes as follows:

  • Each player starts with the same number of game pieces (raisins, candies, nuts…)
  • Each player put in one piece and spins the dreidel (you will either gain pieces or lose them depending on the letter the dreidel lands on).
  • When one player has won all the game pieces, the game is over.

nun-the player does nothing
gimmel-the player gets everything in the “pot”
hey-the player gets half of the pot
shin-the player adds a game piece to the pot

The dreidel spins and the snake slithers in and out along the bottom.

Traditional foods for Hanukkah are potato latkes (pancakes) with apple sauce and sour cream and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts). There are variations of these dishes, but this latke recipe is  the original. 

Potato Latkes Recipe
5-6 medium white potatoes, grated
1 medium yellow onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs breadcrumbs or flour
1/4 cup oil for frying
Peel and grate potatoes. Put in strainer to drain away liquid.
Peel onion. Grate into large bowl.
Add beaten eggs, spices, and crumbs to onions. Beat well.
Add grated and strained potatoes and mix.
Set frying pan at medium heat. Add oil.
When oil heats, add one large tablespoon of batter for each pancake. Cook 4-5 minutes on one side, flip, and cook another 4 minutes. Serve hot with a dolop applesauce and sour cream.

For more great latke recipes, see my friend Eileen Golz’s recipe and food commentary website called Cuisine by Eileen. Eileen has wonderful recipes of all kinds: http://cuisinebyeileen.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/are-they-latkes-or-potato-pancakes/

handpainted dreidel