Festive Foods Around the Globe
More than 2,000 years ago in Palestine, Judas Maccabee and his followers triumphed over the tyrant Antiochus and his army, despite overwhelming odds. But when they returned to Jerusalem, they found their temple desecrated with pagan idols. In order to purge the temple of its defilement, the Maccabees rebuilt the altar and cleansed the temple, rededicating it during eight days of ceremonies. Tradition holds that there was only enough sanctified olive oil to light the temple for one day, but it burned miraculously for all eight days of the celebration. Today, those of the Jewish faith celebrate this victory during an eight-day holiday that begins on the 25th of Kislev (in late November or December). Each night of Hanukkah, people light one candle on the menorah in memory of the miracle of the oil. Since antiquity, the festival has also honored the significance of olive oil to the ancient Jewish culture as fuel, food, and even medicine, and it shows in the foods of the feast. Dishes cooked in olive oil, and latkes (potato pancakes) in particular, are celebratory symbols of this gift of sustenance.