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It’s the holiday season, and that means so much more than just Christmas.

With Australia becoming more and more diverse, you’ll find more and more of your colleagues celebrating holidays other than Christmas. 

“We often assume everyone is the same and everyone’s celebrating the same thing,” says Dr. Avril Alba, an associate professor in Jewish civilisation and Holocaust studies at the University of Sydney. “[Celebrating other holidays] helps people understand who they’re working with."

And embracing them is also a wonderful way to get to know your coworkers, learn a bit about other cultures and try new cuisines. 

"It is important to value and respect each and every person in the workplace and part of this is a celebration and acknowledgment of whichever culture or religion they embrace," says Lisa Goldberg, a cookbook author who heads up the Monday Morning Cooking Club.

Part of the Sydney Jewish community, Goldberg is getting ready to celebrate Hanukkah. Falling late in the year, it has become a time for people to gather, exchange gifts and, of course, eat!

"Food is an essential element in celebrating different cultures," she says.

What’s typically served for Hanukkah?

What’s eaten on Hanukkah often depends on where in the world you’re from, but Dr. Alba says a few common staples for the holiday include:

  • Potato pancakes: Also known as latkes, these morish pancakes are fried up and often served with applesauce or sour cream. Egg is often added as a binding agent, but vegan varieties also exist.
  • Chocolate coins: Often referred to as gelt (which is “money” in both Hebrew and Yiddish), these little bite-sized chocolates were often given to children, but are also a perfect treat to leave around the office.
  • Cinnamon or jelly doughnuts: As if anyone needed an excuse to eat a doughnut, sufganiyot are pillowy donuts often filled with berry jam and sprinkled with icing sugar.

If they're hard to find or you'd like to make it a more well-rounded meal, some other Jewish food staples include bagels, smoked salmon, chicken soup, rugelach (a flaky, sweet pastry).

Where can order Hanukkah foods?

Some places you can order Hanukkah foods include:

If there isn't anywhere near you, consider suggesting a potluck. This way, each person can bring in foods that were special to them growing up. Or, try cooking something new!

Why is food such an important part of Hanukkah?

"As part of Jewish culture, different foods tell or remind us of the stories of each of the festivals.," says Goldberg.

Like in many religions, the food eaten around the Jewish holidays tells a story. Eating foods cooked in oil, like potato pancakes and doughnuts, symbolises oil used to light a sacred candle that lasted eight nights instead of the expected one. Other holidays, such as Passover and Purim also have foods traditionally eaten to in commemoration.

"These foods allow us to keep remembering and keep telling the stories to ensure that the traditions continue."

Are there any dietary restrictions to keep in mind for the holiday?

There aren’t any dietary restrictions specifically linked to Hanukkah. However, many practicing Jewish people do keep Kosher, which does have limitations.

How strict of a diet people keep really does differ from person to person, but a few basics to keep in mind:

  • If you’re serving any meat, be sure it’s certified kosher before serving
  • Don’t serve any pork or pig byproducts or shellfish
  • Avoid serving milk and meat together, especially in one dish

If you’re not sure quite how to order for for kosher diets, Prof. Alba suggests catering for whoever has the strictest diet.

“It’s the most inclusive,” she says. “It doesn’t hurt [others] to keep kosher, but it allows them to feel comfortable.”

When is Hannukah in 2023?

Running for eight nights, Hanukkah starts on 18 December and ends on 26 December in 2023.

The dates do change every year as Jewish holidays run on the Jewish calendar.

What’s the holiday about?

Dubbed the “festival of lights”, Hanukkah commemorates the reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It’s said when it was reclaimed, there was only enough oil to light the temple menorah for one day, but instead it lasted for eight.

Nowadays, those celebrating will light candles in their homes for eight nights to symbolise this.

Although it’s not actually one of the most important holidays, “Hanukkah has become the Jewish Christmas,” Prof. Alba says.

“It’s interesting because it’s culturally important, but religiously there’s barely any restrictions,” compared to other important days in Judaism. 

During Hanukkah, there aren’t any additional restrictions on work or eating and there aren’t any additional religious services to attend.


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Written by:

SEO & Content Marketing Specialist

Spending much of the last decade juggling eating her way around the world and working within the travel and lifestyle content marketing space, Alex joined the EatFirst team in 2022. With 15 years of experience under her belt, she specialises in content strategy, SEO, writing and editing. Some of her favourite eats include Japanese, Thai and Italian, and she’s a firm believer that pineapple has no place on a pizza.

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