Although it’s halfway through Hanukah, we’re far from giving up on the fun of it yet!
I am invited to a traditional annual Latke Party where the joy of this holiday is truly experienced. After candle lighting the kitchen helpers and hostess bring out the trays of fragrant latkes, still freshly steaming, and they are put on many silver trays atop a heating element to keep them warm. Every type of latke is being served from the traditional ones, crispy and tasting like grandmas to the most Avant Garde gourmet experiments. Everything is dairy or pareve, so the accompaniment of sour cream and apple sauce, smoked salmon, salmon roe and even cranberry sauce are served.
Outside it’s cold and the warmth in the lovely home, the fragrances wafting from the kitchen mingled with the tremendous comfort of being in the company of people one cares for brings color to people’s cheeks. They discourse animatedly, going back for second, third and fourth helpings of the delicious offerings.
There are menorahs in every window of the huge home, flickering away merrily and the kids are excited as they tear open their presents.
The tradition in this home is that after present opening, when everyone’s tummy is satiated, all retire to the family room for dessert, story-telling and game playing.
This is the best part of it all.
The little ones play the dreidel and the winners get rewarded by chocolate Hanukkah gelt (money). The host likes to tell stories and he always makes it interesting. For the littlest kids he repeats yearly the story of the brave Maccabees and the miracle of the oil for the menorah. These tiny tots were still in diapers the previous year so the tale is brand new to them. Strangely, even we, who have heard it umpteen times, find it entertaining. The host has an immense talent and adds funny or new facts to make the tale heroic, real and interesting. Then people take turns and everyone tells a little story about why he or she loves Hanukkah or sings a Hanukkah song. Some of the most popular are the Adam Sandler Hanukkah Song, which is always the highlight of the evening. There are guitar players and singers, inventive on-the-spot improvisers who make up wonderful and fun lyrics and lots of laughter.
Then the winner of the dreidel games is pointed out and is given an extra gift and there are cheers all around. Then comes the best part &ndash from the kitchen come trays upon trays of fragrant Sufganiyot, the other must-have for this holiday &ndash deep-fried jelly doughnuts topped with powdered sugar to commemorate the miracle of the oil in the Temple.
With all that love and joy around, once a year a bite won’t hurt you.