Chanukah or Hanukkah begins 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 the 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 doughnuts. Filled with homemade raspberry jam or chocolate crémeux, these treats are available for almost all of the eight 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 its 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 the 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.
Also throughout the holiday, diners can 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 Packer and Itamar Srulovich invite Londoners to 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. It’s a good plan to load up on other goodies too, like its signature babka or moussaka. Follow on Instagram to find out when the first doughnuts will drop, as they’re 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 each and every deep-fried-potato snack need. Each latke is pre-made from shredded potatoes, then fried to order to deliver the perfect crunchy, slightly salty mouthful. 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, the man does not mess around, and it’s best to keep it cheap and cheerful with some house-cured salt beef or homemade chopped liver to take home after the latkes.
Menorah lighting @ Islington
The second-largest public menorah lighting, according to the Chabad Islington website, is 18 December from 5:30 p.m. to 7 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 and enjoy a sufganiyot, a Sephardic Hanukkah tradition, or make a 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 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.