Traditional Chanukah Food Mixed with Jewish History

Dear Pop,

I’m planning a holiday party for my third grade class. I’m including traditional Christmas treats like candy canes, cranberry sauce, roast turkey, and eggnog (non-alcoholic). What are a few traditional Chanukah foods I could add to our holiday feast?

Curious Teacher


Dear Curious Teacher,

On Chanukah Jews consume foods cooked in oil or made from cheese.

Fried foods like potato pancakes (latkes), recalls the Chanukah miracle. The Latkes must be topped with either sour cream or applesauce. (No reason, it just tastes better that way.) Other fried foods for Chanukah include jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot) and fritters.

Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Once the city was taken, the Maccabees lit a candle that was expected to last only one day. But this candle lasted for eight days. That’s why we have a special candelabra, hanukiah, that we light each night of the holiday.

Please make sure one of your girls lights the Chanukah menorah. According to legend, a young widow named Judith entered an enemy camp during Israel’s war against the Assyrians during the Maccabean Revolt. Judith saved her town and prevented the siege of Jerusalem.

Judith used her feminine charms to seduce Holofernes, an enemy army general. He ordered an impressive feast in her honor. During the feast, Judith fed Holofernes salty cheese to make him thirsty and wine to intoxicate him. When the general was sufficiently drunk, she beheaded him with a sword and brought his head back to her village in a basket.

The next morning, when the Assyrian troops found their dead leader, they fled in terror. Today, we honor Judith’s bravery by incorporating cheese into our Chanukah menus.

At your third grade holiday party, latkes and cheese would be appropriate additions to the traditional Christmas foods you plan on serving.

Happy Holidays,


Michael is the author of four published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura Series—The Legend of Koolura and Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Examiner writing articles about parenting and education. His blog features YA authors and books.

One thought on “Traditional Chanukah Food Mixed with Jewish History

  1. Joe Bock Reply

    When I was a kid is was my job to make the potato pancakes (latkes) on Chanukah. To this day it’s the only thing I can cook. We didn’t eat them with sour cream or applesauce; we ate them with nothing on them. When I first saw people eating them with sour cream or applesauce as an adult I thought it was very strange.

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