Happy Hanukkah!

“… and May This Festival of Lights bring Blessings
upon you and All Your Loved Ones for Happiness,
for Health, and for Spiritual and Material Wealth,
and May the Lights of Chanukah Usher in the Light of Moshiach
and a Better World for All of Humankind.”
_Hanukkah blessing


Although Hanukkah is celebrated with much fanfare, it is actually a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar.  Lighting the menorah, spinning the dreidel and feasting on latkes are some of the traditions associated with Hanukkah.  This eight day and night “Festival of Lights,” starting at sundown on the 25th of Kislev (ninth month in the Jewish lunar calendar—December 20th in 2011), is rooted in second centuryJerusalem.

Hanukkah, or “dedication” in Hebrew, recognizes the defeat of the Syrians-Greeks by the Jews in 165 B.C. In an uprising led by High Priest Mattathias, the Jews reclaimed their Holy Temple and purified it, burning ritual oil that lasted a miraculous eight days in the Temple’s menorah.

A little more about Hanukkah:

The Menorah

To commemorate the Jews’ victory, a candelabrum called a hanukkiyah holds a total of nine candles – four candles on either side of a taller candle in the center. Each of the eight candles is lit by the ninth, symbolizing the eight days of the Temple purification.

The Dreidel

During the Syrian takeover, study of the Torah was outlawed.  To study secretly without getting caught, spinning tops called dreidels were kept nearby. If spotted, Jews could always claim they’d been playing with the dreidel to avoid punishment.

The dreidel spins like a top and has four flat sides with Hebrew letters on each side: nun, gimel, hay, and shin.  These letters represent, “Nes gadol haya sham,” which translates into, “A great miracle happened there,” orIsrael.

These letters are also part of a driedel game using gelt, or chocolate coins.  All players start with the same number of coins, putting one into a pot at the beginning.  The dreidel is spun, and depending on which side turns up, coins are either added, half the pot or the whole pot of coins is awarded to the player who spun, or nothing is done at all. The game is over when one player wins all the coins.

Festive Foods

Traditional foods commonly associated with Hanukkah are cooked in oil, in memory of the re-dedication of the holyTemple.  These include latkes, or potato pancakes, believed to have come fromEastern Europe.  From Israel, jelly donuts called sufganiyas are also cooked in oil.

As this historic season approaches, take a moment to reflect on all that became a part of the tradition, and the many who fought and sacrificed to reclaim their culture and celebrate it today. Send a Hanukkah eCard today and let friends and loved ones know you’re thinking about them during this special holiday!



Latke Love

Blue Mountain Blog

Latkes, or potato pancakes, have been around forever. You may have a recipe from your grandmother – a recipe that she got from her mother or grandmother. This traditional Jewish dish, often served during Hanukkah, has found its way through the decades and into our hearts – many through old family recipes that are over 100 years old.

Latkes haven’t always been the same through the generations, though. Since potatoes weren’t available in ancient times, latkes were originally made with grated cheese, egg and then fried – the salty cake was served with wine. But with the introduction of potatoes to Europe, latkes changed forever and potatoes became “mainstream”.

Regardless of how they are made, latkes are popular for Hanukkah because they are oil-fried, commemorating the oil that provided light for eight days in the temple. The word “latke” has Yiddish origins and is thought to have its beginnings in Germany or Russia. When the Jewish people immigrated to the United States, latke preparation also found its way to the U.S. Thank goodness, because these treats are just as tasty as they are traditional.

Are you looking for an updated version of your old standard for Hanukkah? Please enjoy this yummy recipe from! (We are not affiliated with this site.)

700 g (1 ½ lb) firm cooking potatoes (high starch potatoes such as russet or Idaho are preferred)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1/3 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp matzo meal
2 large eggs
30 g (1 oz or ¼ cup) onion, grated
Vegetable oil, butter or mixture


Finely grate potatoes. Line a large bowl with a kitchen towel and dump potatoes in center. Enfold potatoes in towel, and squeeze and twist to remove as much liquid into the bowl as possible. Set potatoes aside and let starch settle from potato liquid for 10 minutes.

In the meantime combine salt, pepper, baking powder and matzo meal in a second bowl, add eggs and beat lightly.

Carefully drain potato liquid but retain potato starch that settled to the bottom. Add this starch to the eggs with the grated onion and potatoes and mix well.

Heat a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat for half a minute and add a small amount of fat (oil, butter or mixture) to coat bottom. With a large spoon, drop several lemon-size latke doughs into the pan and flatten with spatula. Brown lightly on one side, then flip over to brown the second side. Continue with rest of latke dough. Keep them ready to serve on a plate in a warm oven. Latkes will not keep very long and lose a lot on reheating. Serve them very fresh.

Serves 4.

You may serve potato latkes keeping the sour cream and applesauce tradition, or use any of your favorite toppings, such as marmalade, jam, yogurt, honey or sweet syrup. For a festive table, provide at least three choices of toppings.