Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights, is celebrated for eight days to commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE. On Hanukkah we light candles in a nine-branched menorah. Children – and sometimes adults – play with spinning tops called dreidels, and eat traditional fried foods, like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts).
Why fried foods? Because, we are told, when the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee, triumphed over their Greek-Syrian enemies and began to clean and purify the Holy Temple, they only found enough oil to light the Temple's menorah for one day. But miraculously the oil lasted for eight days, long enough for a new supply to arrive. Oil thus plays a large role in the Hanukkah story and in the food we eat at our Hanukkah celebrations.