Hanukkah is in full swing and everywhere people are heating up oil and frying batches of holiday latkes. These tasty potato cakes aren't just delicious, they also have a rich history.
The holiday dates back to 168 BC, when King Antiochus captured Israel and plundered the holiest Temple in Jerusalem. A group of guerilla warriors led by the priest Mattathias and his sons, who lived outside the city, vowed to regain control of the sacred land. These Maccabees, as they called themselves, were successful and liberated Jerusalem three years later.
The Maccabees cleared the temple of idols and lit a remaining golden menorah. The oil that remained in the temple should have only lasted one day but instead it lasted eight days. As a symbol of the holiday Jews everywhere eat fried foods during Hanukkah.
Over the centuries Jews in different regions began frying different foods to celebrate the holiday. In Eastern Europe there were few options for foods to fry in the winter. Potatoes were grated and made into patties that were then fried up.
Since the original, potato pancakes have gone through many different incarnations and now are often made with many different fillers and served with various sides.