It’s beginning to look a lot like…. Chanukah
The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, and so, holidays fall on different dates each year in the Julian (solar) calendar. Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights,” tends to coincide with Christmas, but this year, it is even closer to Thanksgiving. So it was in early November that we dusted off the menorah and took out our wooden dreidels and decorative lights. I ran over to Books & Bagels in Zürich, my source for all things Jewish during the holidays, especially cards and candles. Chanukah plates, decorations, stickers, games – you name it, they have it (but I don’t actually recommend the bagels, sorry.). Gold sachets of chocolate coins (gelt) and presents arrived in a care package from New York. All was ready for the first night (of eight) at sundown on December 1st.
You may recall reading about the story of Chanukah the first time I celebrated it here in Zürich in 2008. I answered a few questions, namely, what’s the deal with all the different spellings (Hanukkah, Hanuka, Channuka, etc.), why we eat fried foods, and what we do with those wooden tops called dreidels. Last but not least, I revealed just how Chanukah-friendly Switzerland actually is, with its omnipresent milk chocolate (gelt) and Rösti (potato latkes). I may have to make Bon Appétit’s Rösti-style potato latkes again, for a perfect mix of the two.
There’s nothing I love more than traditions, yet last year I added a sweet spin to the celebration. While the classic dessert during this holiday is sufganiyot (doughnuts) because they are fried in oil, I focused more on the color most closely associated with the holiday, and baked blue palmiers (elephant ears). But here’s a new idea, what about combining the two and making doughnuts with a blueberry jam filling? Each year brings back my cherished traditions, but it’s always fun to add something new. Perhaps the old adage rings true not just for weddings, but for Chanukah too: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” The original saying with Victorian origins continues, “and a silver sixpence in her shoe.” Simply make that a gold coin, and it fits. Wishing you all good fortune, and to those who celebrate, a very happy Chanukah. What will you be doing to celebrate?
Chanukah 2008 – brief story of Chanukah, rules for playing dreidel and more
Chanukah 2009 – list of holiday recipes from around the web