Chanukah or Hanukkah begins tonight, 18 December, at sundown, lasting for eight nights, until 26 December. The holiday commemorates the drive of a small-but-determined army known as the Maccabees, the rededication of a Jewish synagogue decimated by the Greek-Syrian army, and the oil found amongst the rubble that was just enough to relight the synagogue’s eternal flame; the oil serves as a metaphor of resilience and hope.
For all intents and purposes, Hanukkah is considered to be a minor holiday within the Jewish faith. Thing is, Hanukkah has best possible hype man there could possibly be: Christmas. Its proximity has helped to bring Hanukkah, known as the festival of lights, and all the oil-packed foods traditionally made in celebration, into the public eye. It’s not a bad thing, really.
For all who wish to enjoy this celebration of hope, resilience, and deep-fried foods, here’s what’s happening this week across London.
The queen of modern Jewish sourdough is back again to celebrate the festival of lights with her ferment-leavened sufganiyot (aka filled doughnuts). Filled with homemade raspberry jam or chocolate Creméux, these treats are available for almost all of the eight crazy nights. As these are only around once a year, pre-ordering via the website is strongly recommended. Pick up an order from the flagship shop in East Finchley or in the bakery’s second and more spacious location at 66 Georges Road near Holloway Tube Station. Owner Michelle Eshkeri says that customers should also keep an eye out for community events currently being developed at the new location for next year.
Back by popular demand! Pop by Karma Bread at their Brent Cross or Hampstead Heath location to pick up a box of special edition Hanukkah doughnuts. Flavours include tahini halva honey, custard, cinnamon, chocolate brownie, and regular-sized or mini jam-filled doughnuts. Pre-order via their website. Come for the doughnuts but don’t forget to grab an order of the bakery’s stollen challah, mince pie doughnuts or other daily offerings.
From today and throughout the holiday, join owner Tami Isaacs Pearce at 4 p.m. at the Hampstead Heath location, 13 South End Road, for the nightly lighting of the menorah, made from Karma’s signature challah bread; it’s a tradition that has been ongoing for eight years now, led by Isaacs Pearce’s father. “It’s a ritual that is so important to me; it’s my greatest joy! Anyone and everyone is welcome to come share in the light and sense of community,” she says.
JW3 Jewish Community Centre
JW3 on Finchley Road in North London is running a series of Hanukkah-related events, beginning today with Chanukah Funakah, a family event filled with singing, Hanukkah cookie decorating, arts and crafts, doughnuts and thematic ‘Maccabeat Dance Parties’. Tickets are £5 for adults, £9 for children, and free for under 2’s.
Return later in the week to take part in a number of events including an interfaith celebration with Nisa-Nashim, a national network specialising in bringing together women of Jewish and Islamic faiths. This event kicks off 6:30 p.m., on 21 December to include candle lighting, food and story sharing. Tickets for all events are available through the website.
Honey & Spice Deli
Founders Sarit and Itamar have given Eater the inside scoop into their upcoming plans for Hanukkah. Visit Honey & Spice Deli at 52 Warren Street to pick up a specially made Hanukkah doughnut or five: each doughy deep-fried ball of goodness is filled with bergamot curd, then rolled in bergamot sugar to finish. While you’re there, load up on other goodies too, like their signature babka or moussaka and save yourself from a bit of pre-holiday cooking in the run up to Christmas. Follow them on Instagram to keep your eyes peeled for the first doughnut drop sighting. Available in store only.
Tongue & Brisket
Honestly, who doesn’t need a two quid latke pick-me-up now and again, especially at this time of year. With three locations in central London, and available on the menu year-round, Tongue & Brisket comes highly recommend for all your deep-fried potato snack needs. Each latke is pre-made from shredded potatoes then fried to order to deliver the perfect crunchy, slightly salty, deep-fried snack you didn’t know you needed. Given the holiday’s dedication to all things oil, this is one of the easiest recommendations there could be. Founded by Bambos Georgiou of B&K Salt Beef Bar, he has spent his career building his pedigree reputation, including establishing the iconic Brass Rail at Selfridges. The man does not mess around. Keep it cheap and cheerful or treat yourself by taking some of their house cured salt beef or homemade chopped liver home with you.
Menorah lighting @ Islington
The second largest public menorah lighting, according to the Chabad Islington website, is taking place this evening 18 December from 17:30 — 19:00 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. Enjoy a latke or doughnut and listen to the live klezmer band as the community welcomes in the Jewish holiday by lighting the menorah. Follow the crowds and the smells of freshly fried potato latkes, an Ashkenazic holiday tradition, all the way to Islington Green N1 8DU where the festivities will take place. Then, spin a dreidel to gamble for gelt (money) and enjoy a sufganiyot, a Sephardic Hanukkah tradition, or make your own candle with instruction from the Jewish Museum before heading home. An action-packed community event welcome to all faiths and ages.
Jewish Museum London
Families looking for a fun activity to welcome in the festival of lights can head to London’s Jewish Museum, located in Raymond Burton House in Camden for an afternoon filled with activities for all ages. Get your dreidel-spinning, doughnut-making fingers ready to take part in the hands-on workshops guaranteed to quell all the whining and kvetching, at least temporarily. All activities have limited places and are run on a first come, first serve basis. More information can be found on their website.