Why Do Jews Eat Fried Foods to Celebrate Hanukkah?

Answered by
Rabbi Emily Langowitz

Along with lighting the hanukkiyahhanukkiyahחֲנֻכִּיָּהNine-branched candelabra used during Hanukkah – eight branches for each night of the holiday, plus another branch (often taller, central, or more prominently displayed) for the shamash (helper) candle, which is used to light the others. , playing dreideldreidelסְבִיבוֹן"Spinning top" in Yiddish (derived from German); "sevivon" in Hebrew; toy used in a children's Hanukkah game. , and telling the story of the MaccabeesMaccabeesמַכַּבִּיםThe family of five sons who led the revolt against the Hellenization of Jerusalem and became the heroes of the Hanukkah story. , one of the most recognizable and tastiest Hanukkah traditions is cooking (and eating) fried foods. While frying up a fresh batch of Hanukkah treats is certainly delicious, this practice is also deeply rooted in the meaning of the holiday.

On Hanukkah, Jews celebrate the many miracles experienced by the Maccabees, a small band of Jewish soldiers who fought against religious oppression in the second century BCE. One of these miracles occurred when the Maccabees regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem. They found a jug of oil that only contained enough fuel to keep the Temple's lamps lit for one day. However, the oil lasted for eight whole days! This miracle is the reason we eat foods fried in oil to celebrate Hanukkah and remember the Maccabees.

Jews from all over the world have developed different recipes for fried Hanukkah dishes. Learn more about global Hanukkah cuisine and try out a new recipe this Hanukkah!