Hanukkah & Latkes

The joyous festival of Hanukkah begins on 25 Kislev of the Jewish calendar. It celebrates two miracles – a great Jewish military victory and a miraculous supply of oil for the Temple.

The eight-day Jewish celebration commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend, Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah, means “dedication” in Hebrew.

Hanukkah is celebrated – also called the Festival of Lights – for eight days. The Hanukkah menorah holds nine candles, one for each of the eight nights and an additional candle that’s used to light the others. One candle is lit on the first night, two on the second night, until all eight candles are lit on the eighth night. Hanukkah is a time to celebrate with family and friends, to eat holiday treats, to give gifts (especially to children) and to play the dreidel game.


Many families similar to the Mayo Family celebrate Hanukkah giving rich meaning to history, tradition, religion and values. Hannah shares the story of her first celebration.


Yesterday, for the first time ever, our little family celebrated Hanukkah. We lit the menorah, and we talked about the history of this holiday. We said the blessings (I stumbled over the Hebrew words, and then said them in English), and we listened to Maoz Tzur.  A small gift was opened, and we ate chocolate coins.

This is a tradition I wanted to include in our annual holiday celebrations, for a few reasons. First, my ancestors were Jewish. For the last few generations, they did not practice the religion, but I grew up knowing that my grandfather was at least ethnically Jewish (and he did go to Hebrew school as a child), and that I had some Jewish blood. It always meant a lot to me, because I understood the Judeo-Christian connection. I also believe that the Hebrew roots of Christianity should be recognized and celebrated. The two are so very intertwined, and knowing the early history of these religions adds a new dimension to all of it.

Finally, I want my children to grow up experiencing various traditions and knowing the meaning behind them. For my family, Hanukkah will be about recognizing diverse traditions, celebrating the light in the world, and praying for peace. And also, celebrating my love for latkes.


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5 medium russet potatoes

1 medium yellow onion

salt + pepper to taste {i use about 5 large pinches of salt}

the juice of 1 lemon

6 egg whites

1 c all-purpose flour

oil, for frying

apple sauce + sour cream, for serving



shred potatoes and onion using a food processor or mandoline. add salt and squeeze out as much moisture as you can by pouring them into a cheese cloth and squeezing over the sink. place in a large bowl, add pepper, lemon juice, egg whites, and flour. mix well.

heat about 1/4″ oil in a large pan over medium high heat, and then scoop spoonfuls of mixture into the pan. flatten a bit with a spatula, and brown on both sides.

remove from the pan and pat off excess oil with paper towels. serve with apple sauce and sour cream.


Photography: Molly Yeh


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