Why do we eat latkes on Hanukkah?

Answered by
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

A common explanation is that we eat latkes (potato pancakes) because they are cooked in oil and this remind us of the miracle that a single cruse of oil found in the Temple lasted for eight nights. Some scholars suggest that the popularity of latkes is due to the fact that the potato crop became available around the time of Hanukkah in Europe. No one knows for certain how the association began, but for anyone who feasts on latkes at Hanukkah time, a historical rationale is unnecessary. Sephardic Jews eat different fried food on Hanukkah, including sufganiyot, jelly-filled doughnuts, and birmuelos, raised yeast doughnuts. To learn more about the connection of oil to the Hanukkah story, see The Miracle of Expanding Oil.