The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (Chanukah) takes place this year from the evening of December 8th through to the evening of December 16th, 2012.
Hanukkah is a happily celebrated holiday that starts on the 25th day of Kivlis (according to the Georgian calendar and is dated based upon the cycles of moon. Hanukkah is also referred to as the Festival of Lights and is usually celebrated on a date falling somewhere around November into December. It takes place for eight days and nights. The festival is in celebration of the rededication of the ‘Temple of Jerusalem’ – or Temple of Menorah in 165 B.C by Judas McCabe. The word Hanukkah in translation means ‘dedication’ in Jewish.
During the Hanukkah celebration in the eight successive nights, the menorah is lit. The special menorah that is used by celebrants is called the ‘hannukkiyah’. The special ninth candle that is used is called the ‘shamish and it takes a central space on the menorah. It is the ‘servant’ candle used to light the other candles. On night one, the first candle is lit and they are lit successively until all are completely lit on the eighth night. The candles are usually lit from left to right. A blessing thanking God is usually said before and after a candle lighting. A Jewish hymn is sung during the lightings. The menorah is often placed in a front window of the celebrants home.
Gift giving has become the norm and gifts are now given on each of the days of Hanukkah. This is a more recent tradition Games are played during Hanukkah including ‘sivivon’ and ‘dreidel’. Foods fried in oil such as latkes and donuts filled with jams are very often served. Of the many foods served during the celebration, honey spice cookies are popular among children and following is a recipe that I used for a bake sale held at a local temple some years ago. I share it below:
HONEY-SPICE COOKIES —
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine (60% oil), softened
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
In mixing bowl, cream margarine and brown sugar with electric mixer. Beat in the honey and egg until thoroughly combined. In a small bowl, mix the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add honey mixture and mix on low speed until well blended. Cover up the dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Can be refrigerated for up to two days.
When ready to bake, grease 2 large cookie sheets and set aside. Working rapidly, quarter the dough, and one piece at a time roll out on a surface dusted with flour to a 1/4 inch thickness. Using shaped cookie cutters (star, dreidel and menorah) cut into desired number of cookies depending on size of cutters. These can also be cut by hand with sharp knife. Reshape scraps and cut more cookies from it. Place on shapes on greased baking sheets and bake in a 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes or until golden. Quantity of cookies may vary due to size of cookie cutters. Transfer cookies to wire baking racks to cool.
To frost cookies – In large mixing bowl, combine egg whites, confectioners sugar, salt and lemon juice. Beat this on high until mixture forms peaks. A bit of water can be added if too stiff or add more sugar if too runny. Using pasty bag with fitted tube, decorate with icing.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart
by Hannah Senesh
- Hanukkah shows in NYC: Golem, Sephardic Music Festival, Menorah Horah! & more (brooklynvegan.com)