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Hanukkah

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Hanukkah usually spelled חנוכה, pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew, a transliteration also romanized as Chanukah or Ḥanukah is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication.

The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched menorah (also called a Chanukiah/Hanukiah), one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The typical menorah consists of eight branches with an additional visually distinct branch. The extra light, with which the others are lit, is called a shamash (Hebrew: שמש‎‎, "attendant") and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest.

Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as doughnuts and latkes.

Since the 1970s, the worldwide Chabad Hasidic movement has initiated public menorah lightings in open public places in many countries.

There is a custom of eating foods fried or baked in oil (preferably olive oil) to commemorate the miracle of a small flask of oil keeping the Second Temple's Menorah alight for eight days. Traditional foods include potato pancakes, known as latkes in Yiddish, especially among Ashkenazi families. Sephardi, Polish and Israeli families eat jam-filled doughnuts (Yiddish: פאנטשקעס‎ pontshkes), bimuelos (fritters) and sufganiyot which are deep-fried in oil. Hungarian Jews eat cheese pancakes known as "cheese latkes".

Latkes are not popular in Israel, having been largely replaced by sufganiyot due to local economic factors, convenience and the influence of trade unions. Bakeries in Israel have popularized many new types of fillings for sufganiyot besides the traditional strawberry jelly filling, including chocolate cream, vanilla cream, caramel, cappuccino and others. In recent years, downsized, "mini" sufganiyot containing half the calories of the regular, 400 - 600-calorie version, have become popular.

Rabbinic literature also records a tradition of eating cheese and other dairy products during Hanukkah. This custom, as mentioned above, commemorates the heroism of Judith during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews and reminds us that women also played an important role in the events of Hanukkah. The deuterocanonical book of Judith (Yehudit or Yehudis in Hebrew), which is not part of the Tanakh, records that Holofernes, an Assyrian general, had surrounded the village of Bethulia as part of his campaign to conquer Judea. After intense fighting, the water supply of the Jews was cut off and the situation became desperate. Judith, a pious widow, told the city leaders that she had a plan to save the city. Judith went to the Assyrian camps and pretended to surrender. She met Holofernes, who was smitten by her beauty. She went back to his tent with him, where she plied him with cheese and wine. When he fell into a drunken sleep, Judith beheaded him and escaped from the camp, taking the severed head with her (the beheading of Holofernes by Judith has historically been a popular theme in art). When Holofernes' soldiers found his corpse, they were overcome with fear; the Jews, on the other hand, were emboldened, and launched a successful counterattack. The town was saved, and the Assyrians defeated.

Jewish cuisine is a diverse collection of cooking traditions of the Jewish people worldwide. It has evolved over many centuries, shaped by Jewish dietary laws (kashrut), Jewish Festival, and Shabbat (Sabbath) traditions. Jewish cuisine is influenced by the economics, agriculture, and culinary traditions of the many countries where Jewish communities have settled and varies widely throughout the world.

The distinctive styles in Jewish cuisine are Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, Persian, Yemenite, Indian, and Latin-American. There are also dishes from Jewish communities from Ethiopia to Central Asia.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and particularly since the late 1970s, a nascent Israeli "fusion cuisine" has developed. Jewish Israeli cuisine has especially adapted a multitude of elements, overlapping techniques and ingredients from many diaspora Jewish culinary traditions.

Using agricultural products from dishes of one Jewish culinary tradition in the elaboration of dishes of other Jewish culinary traditions, as well as incorporating and adapting various other Middle Eastern dishes from the local non-Jewish population of the Land of Israel (which had not already been introduced via the culinary traditions of Jews which arrived to Israel from the various other Arab countries), Israeli Jewish cuisine is both authentically Jewish (and most often kosher) and distinctively local "Israeli", yet thoroughly hybridised from its multicultural diasporas Jewish origins.

The laws of keeping kosher (kashrut) have influenced Jewish cooking by prescribing what foods are permitted and how food must be prepared. The word kosher is usually translated as "proper."

Certain foods, notably pork and shellfish, are forbidden; meat and dairy may not be combined, and meat must be ritually slaughtered and salted to remove all traces of blood.

Observant Jews will eat only meat or poultry that is certified kosher. The meat must have been slaughtered by a shochet (ritual slaughterer) in accordance with Jewish law and is entirely drained of blood. Before it is cooked, it is soaked in water for half an hour, then placed on a perforated board, sprinkled with coarse salt (which draws out the blood), and left to sit for one hour. At the end of this time, the salt is washed off and the meat is ready for cooking. Today, kosher meats purchased from a butcher or supermarket are usually already kashered as described above, and no additional soaking or salting is required.

According to kashrut, meat and poultry may not be combined with dairy products, nor may they touch plates or utensils that have been touched by dairy products. Therefore, Jews who observe kashrut divide their kitchens into different sections for meat and for dairy, with separate ovens, plates, and utensils (or as much as is reasonable, given financial and space constraints; there are procedures to kasher utensils that have touched dairy to allow their use for meat.

As a result, butter, milk and cream are not used in preparing dishes made with meat or intended to be served together with meat. Oil, pareve margarine, rendered chicken fat (often called schmaltz in the Ashkenazi tradition) or non-dairy cream substitutes are used instead.

Despite religious prohibitions, some foods not generally considered kosher have made their way into traditional Jewish cuisine; sturgeon, which was consumed by European Jews at least as far back as the 19th century, is one example.