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All Things Chanukah: Some History, Some Recipes and Ways to Celebrate This Festival of Lights

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So what is Chanukah, aka the Festival of Lights, all about? Here’s the 101 on all you need to know!

We grew up having my mother prepare amazing Chanukah parties every year catering to many friends and families. There was even a human sized dreidel (Chanukah children’s game) made out of cardboard filled with gifts for everyone. Each family would gather around a table with their menorah, and there were at least thirty to forty families who would then wait for my grandfather to begin singing the prayer in Hebrew to light the candles for another night. Tables filled to the brim with homemade Sufganiyot and Latkes (traditional Jewish food for the festival).

It was a beautiful scene with all the menorahs, families and candles … breathtakingly gorgeous! Families filled with joy, warmth and enthusiasm for such a special occasion. I get goose-bumps just thinking about it!

The History

There was a Greek King of Syria, Antiochus, who outlawed anything Jewish and forced the Jews to worship the Greek Gods. The Jews weren’t happy with that so they decided to fight back and formed an army named The Maccabees. Back in 165 B.C.E, they drove the Syrian army out of Jerusalem to reclaim the temple. In short, Chanukah is the celebration of victory in the time of darkness. Chanukah comes from the Hebrew verb, meaning “to dedicate”. There are two popular spellings for the high holiday Hanukkah and Chanukah

What’s a Menorah?

After reclaiming the temple, The Maccabees wanted to rededicate it by lighting an eternal flame, however, there was only enough oil to do so for one day. Miraculously, the little canister of oil lasted for 8 days and nights until more oil was found. Today we light the candelabra “Menorah” for eight days of Chanukah, lighting one candle for each day. The Shamash (known as the helper candle) sits in the middle of the menorah helping to light the days as they go along (Shemash is lit and lights day one, the next day lights day one and two, and so on until the eighth day of Chanukah). The eight days of lighting the candles celebrates the miracle of the oil!

Eating everything fried?

In memory of the miracle of the oil, fried foods are consumed during this holiday season. If you know anything about me you know I will have found a way around this … and knowing me you will have some healthier recipes here to make during your Chanukah feast! The popular foods are called Latkes (potato pancakes) and Sufganiyot (sweet jelly-filled doughnuts).

What’s a Dreidel?

Similar to a spinning top, the dreidel has four sides with Hebrew letters on them. Each of those letters stands for a phrase in Hebrew, “A great miracle happened there” (Nes Gadol Haya Sham).

Presents, and then some!

Traditionally, children received “Chanukah Gelt” (Yiddish word for money) during each of the eight nights, in order to learn about charity. Only recently did it become custom to give small gifts each night instead of the gelt. Some families, however, just give one gift during the holidays.

Most of all, Chanukah, just like all of the Jewish holidays, is about family. It’s a time to get together and eat, drink and share traditions which were passed down through generations.The message Chanukah brings is that we all have the capacity to be something greater than anyone ever expected, just like the one canister of oil!

Now that I have explained everything about the holiday, here are some easy, “healthy, nutritious & delish” recipes in pure Ifat Kafry Hindes style! Who says you can’t have your doughnuts and latkes’s and eat them, too?!!

Easy Chanukah Doughnuts

GF / V

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup of your favorite GF Flour Blend
  • 1 Tbsp Arrowroot
  • ¼ Himalayan Salt
  • ¼ Baking Soda
  • 1¼ Filtered Water
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract

Topping Variations for the Doughnuts

Chocolate Ganache

  • ½ Cup Chocolate Chips (I use allergy free ‘enjoy life’ brand)
  • ¼ Cup Coconut Cream

Cinnamon Sugar

  • ¼ Cup Coconut Sugar (I also use date sugar)
  • ¼ Tsp Cinnamon

Jelly & Sugar

  • ½ Cup favourite Jelly
  • ¼ Cup Coconut Sugar
  •  Coconut Oil for deep frying!

Process

Mix GF Flour, Arrowroot, Baking Soda & Salt with a whisk.

In a large pot, boil the water and coconut sugar, add the butter when it’s boiling until it’s melted. With the heat on low, add the vanilla, and then bit by bit, add the flour mixture mixing continuously. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look smooth, keep stirring and adding more flour, it will eventually become a thick and sticky dough. When this occurs, remove from heat and continue to stir to make sure everything is thoroughly combined, and the dough is smooth.

Put the dough on a board, and let it cool for 15 minutes.

When the dough is cool enough to work with, use a knife to cut at least 2 Tbsp bits of dough, and roll them into balls that are slightly flattened (not too flat, you still want some good thickness later on for fillings). Continue until you finish all the dough.

Heat up 2 inches of coconut oil in a pan and slowly place one doughnut at a time into the hot oil. Cook at least 3 at time as they will move around and cook as they float. Cook for at least 3-4mins each side, depending on the temperature. The doughnuts typically sink to the bottom of the oil, but don’t worry as they cook they will rise to the surface.

When the doughnuts are ready, place them on a paper towel to remove some of the excess oil.

If covering in Sugar Cinnamon, once the doughnuts are just slightly warm add your coating.

Using Chocolate Ganache, you need to wait until the doughnut has cooled completely, then dip into the ganache.

Using the traditional Sufganyiot, take some of your favorite Jelly and using a spare medicine syringe inject the Jelly into the doughnut. Sprinkle some coconut sugar on top for decoration.

Root of the Latkes

GF / DF

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups shredded root veggies (Can be mixed. Have fun with it! – I usually use sweet potatoes, parsnips and potatoes.)
  • ¼ Grated Onion
  • 2 Organic Eggs
  • 1 Tbsp Tapioca
  • ½ Tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ Tsp Himalayan Salt
  • ¼ Powdered Pepper
  • Coconut Oil for frying!

This dish is traditionally served with sour cream and apple sauce, however I have been using raw coconut yogurt with mine! In Hong Kong, I get it from Green Vitamin!

Process

Place the shredded veggies into a large bowl, squeezing off any excess moisture before hand, and then dabbing it with a paper towel.

Add the eggs, tapioca, baking powder, Himalayan salt & pepper, and mix thoroughly.

Heat up  ½ inch of oil in a pan on medium heat.

Using a spoon, scoop out the latkes mixture and as you drop it in the oil, quickly and gently press it in to a circular shape.

Fry the latkes for about 5 minutes each side, until they are golden brown.

When they are ready, place them on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

Chanukah Events

Now that you have your doughnuts and latkes recipes, here is what is happening around town during Chanukah this year! Hong Kong has quite a large Jewish community, much larger than when I was growing up here, and as such, there are many different ways to celebrate Chanukah with the community!

Chabad “Chanukah Live it Light it”

8 Days, 8 Ways!

Please note with all event pre-registration is required for security clearance.

ReJEWvenate Tuesday Dec 1st

A pre-Chanuka evening of baking, crafts and discussion for women.

This event will include two sessions with a choice of two workshops for each session which will include Candle Decoration, donut making instruction, and discussion about the message of Chanukah as well as how to make it meaningful for children.   
Workshops will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.

There is a suggested contribution of HK$150 per person which will be collected during the event.

 

Giant Menorah Lighting

30th Annual Giant Menorah Lighting in Hong Kong at Chater Garden, Central

Sunday, Dec. 6

4pm Mega Carnival

5:45 Menorah Lighting

 

Latke Lunch for Women

Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Chabad House

Kowloon Chanukah Celebration

Tuesday, Dec. 8

Latkes & L’Chaim 6.30pm

 

Lantau Giant Menorah Lighting

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 4:30- pm – 6:30 pm
5th Annual Chanuka in the Plaza Discovery Bay, Glow in the Dark!

Free Carnival, Gifts for All Kids, African Drumming Show

 

SHARE THE LIGHT for KIDS 

Wednesday Dec. 9 at Chabad House

JUDA, event open for everyone, Please register first though!

 

Young Pro’s Chanukah Bash

Thursday, Dec. 10, Sky Garden, LKF Tower at 8pm

Drinks and Driedels for Young Jewish Pros

Dinner, Drinks, Hookah (Shisha) Lounge

 

Community Shabbat Dinner

Friday, Dec. 11 at Chabad House


STRIKE and LIGHT for TEENS

Sunday, Dec. 13 at Chabad House

 

Ohel Leah Synagogue

Monday, December 7 $100

Ohel leah is celebrating Chanukah with exciting activities for all ages.

For younger members, aged 3 – 10 there will be a Chanukah Party at the JCC, complete with Arts & Crafts, Games, Challenges, Candle Lighting and Dinner while teens we will be trying to “Escape the Room”

Saturday, December 12 $150

Includes tickets and transport. Adults will be challenged to a traditional Pub Quiz, complete with buffet dinner, drinks aplenty and friendly competition

Details of all upcoming events can be found on their website http://ohelleah.org/ols/

Please note the JCC is a secure facility, non-members are reminded to provide photo ID when they visit.

All events require pre-registration via the website or the synagogue office.

 

United Jewish Congregation

UJC Hanukkah Cocktails, $350 per person

Thursday, December 10, 7 pm – 9 pm at at L16 Cafe and Bar, Hong Kong Park, Admiralty

Cocktails and canapes Hanukkah fun for adults

Please click here to download the booking form and return it to the UJC office before Monday, 7th December.

 

Kehliat Zion

There will be a daily candle lighting at the Kehilat Zion.

Please get in touch with them to register that you are coming [email protected] or 2368 0061.

For all other information regarding Chanukah and other festivals, you can get in touch directly with these sources:

 

Shuva Israel Synagogue & Community Centre
61 Connaught Road, 3/F Fortune House, Central, 6844 0472
www.shuva-israel.com

 

Ohel Leah Synagogue
70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Central, 2589 2621
www.ohelleah.org

 

Kehilat Zion Synagogue
Hechal Ezra, 1/F, Unit 105, 62 Mody Road, Wing On Plaza, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2366 6364 or 2368 0061
www.kehilat-zion.org

 

Hong Kong Jewish Community Centre
1 Robinson Place, 70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Central, 2801 5440
www.jcc.org.hk

 

Chabad Of Hong Kong
7-9 Macdonnell Road, 1/F Hoover Court, Mid-Levels, Central, 2523 9770

 

Chabad Of Kowloon
2/F, 11 Hart Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2366 5770

 

Chabad Of Lantau
1 Kin Tung Road, Flat A 6F Tower 6 Caribbean Coast, Tung Chung, 3746 4701
www.chabadhongkong.org

 

United Jewish Congregation Of Hong Kong
Jewish Community Centre, 1 Robinson Place, 70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Central, 2523 2985
www.ujc.org.hk

 

Jewish Women’s Association
Jewish Community Centre, 1 Robinson Place, 70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Central, 2801 5440
www.jwa.org.hk

 

Asian Jewish Life Magazine
Suite 804, Winning House, 10-16 Cochrane Street, Central, [email protected]
www.asianjewishlife.org

Lead image source via Pinterest 

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