Every year, as the Jewish festival of Hanukkah approaches, you can see jelly-filled donuts popping up in bakeries across Israel.
Called sufganiyah (plural: sufganiyot) in Hebrew, they typically only appear around the holiday season, usually showing up at the beginning of the Hebrew month Kislev, the month that Hanukkah takes place in.
Kislev typically falls around December, but lately donuts have been known to appear as early as September.
It's a custom for most Jews to eat foods fried in oil during Hanukkah, like the traditional levivot, the fried potato pancakes some might know as latkes.
This oil-filled custom is a remembrance of the miracle of light, which saw a small bit of oil light a menorah for eight whole days during the liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem in the Maccabean Revolt, in around 200 BCE.
The earliest mention of this custom comes from the father of Maimonides, Rabbi Maimon ben Joseph born 1110, according to Chabad.
It is believed that sufganiyot came to Israel via Polish Jewish immigrants, who also brought the tradition of eating them during Hanukkah.
While the donuts were typically fried in lard at the time, Polish Jews fried theirs in oil or chicken fat (known as schmaltz), due to reasons pertaining to kashrut.
In the late 1920s, the Israeli labor federation, or Histadrut, pushed to replace the latke with the sufganiyah as the quintessential Hanukkah food, in order to provide more work (preparing, transporting, and selling the donuts) for its members, according to food historian Gil Marks.
This proved successful, as nowadays, more Israeli Jews eat sufganiyot on Hanukkah than fast on Yom Kippur, according to Jewish Action.
The largest bakery in Israel, Angel Bakeries, fries more than 25,000 donuts every day during the eight-day festival. While these donuts are traditionally filled with jelly, you’ll see a variety of flavors in bakeries such as Angel and Roladin.
One bakery even filled their donuts with vodka, circa 2013.
The Defense Ministry also gets in on the craze, buying an upward of 400,000 donuts for its soldiers every Hanukkah. The troops, apparently, prefer jelly, while vegan soldiers get treats that suit their needs.
Republished with permission from i24NEWS