I was asked to contribute a little “something something” for Hannukah this year. I am not very religious, I slept through Sunday school, I’m Jewish, my husband was raised Roman Catholic, and my kids celebrate everything. On Thanksgiving morning, my 8 year old son popped his head out of his room and shouted, “do we get presents today?” – like the groundhog who sees its shadow. When he realized there were no gifts to unwrap he said, “no thanks, not interested”, and went back into his room to wait for Hanukkah and Christmas.
Here’s what I do know about Hannukah – It’s the festival of lights. You already knew that because it’s the first line in Adam Sandler’s Hannukah song, the one Hanukkah song played on the radio. Thanks Adam. We celebrate Hanukkah for 8 days and nights, lighting a menorah called a Hanukiah each night. I’m not 100% on why we light the menorah for 8 nights, something about a miracle that a day’s worth of oil lasted 8 days in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem about 2300 years ago. If you need more information please visit www.lmgtfy.com.
In my family we only light, on average, 4 nights because half the nights, we forget. It’s like those 10 days of antibiotics you give your child but then miss a few times. Come on, we’ve all forgotten a few. In the words of Rick Perry, “Oops”. My son put a tooth under his pillow once and I forgot to exchange it for some money. In the morning I had to explain that overpopulation caused the tooth fairy to be tardy.
Hanukkah is a Hebrew word translated into English so no one spells it the same way. Here’s what I’ve heard, if it has eight letters, you’re fine. Hannukah, Chanukah, Hanukkah, Hanookka. Just count the letters. My spell checker seems to like Hanukkah.
We have many food traditions during Hanukkah. My favorite is the Latke, pronounced just like Latke from Taxi, “tank you veddy much.” Latkes are potato pancakes fried in oil and typically topped with applesauce or sour cream. Once again, we are celebrating the oil. Sorry to break tradition but this girl does not fry anything in oil. I bake my latkes in the oven on a cookie sheet – it’s much healthier. I’m looking for my own miracle when I attend my weekly weigh-in meetings, if you get my “point”. I have provided the recipe below.
Being raised by a gambling father, the game of Dreidel for me has always been my favorite Hanukkah tradition. A dreidel is a four-sided top you spin and it has a Hebrew letter on each side. My father taught me how to play Dreidel when I was seven. He said, “Marci, some children play Dreidel, some children have Santa, some Daddy’s have savings accounts, and some Daddy’s have bookies. Now roll those dice, I mean spin that dreidel.” If you would like the rules of Dreidel, you can go to www.lmgtfy.com.
Hannukah is not one of the holiest holidays for the Jewish people, but being so close to Christmas, Jews living in Christian societies have adapted the gift giving of Christmas and incorporated it into Hanukkah. I think that’s great, especially for the economy. If we didn’t give gifts on Hanukkah, I wouldn’t have a good reason to go shopping on Black Friday, the greatest day of the year, a true American holiday, a day prices are so low, my family can have an Xbox360, provided I remember the pepper spray. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about family, traditions, and living The American Dream. No matter what you celebrate this Season, let’s have a Healthy and Happy New Year!
Healthier Hanukkah Potato Latke Recipe
2 lbs potatoes (shredded or grated) or frozen hash browns from grocery freezer
1 onion (shredded or grated)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
nonstick cooking spray
Directions: Preheat oven to 425°F.Drain excess liquid from potatoes. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Spray two baking sheets. Add latke mixture by 1/4 cup; flatten. Bake 15 minutes; turn latkes; and bake 10 minutes longer. Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream.
Marci Kozin Stifter | Comedian.