As Hanukkah approaches food plays a big part

Starting Dec. 10 you may see or hear “Hanukkah Samech” or “Chag Urim Sameach”—Happy Hanukkah or Happy Festival of Lights and that is to celebrate the start of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is the eight-day holiday that celebrates the miraculous story of the  Jewish recapture and rededication of a Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE. The festival of light, symbolized by the Menorah, a candelabra of nine candles is commemorated because (long story short) one family, the Maccabees somehow kept an eternal light going in a temple for eight days when they only had enough oil for one day.

Each day of Hanukkah a candle is lit –the first night starting with two: there are eight candles in a row, and one (the shamash) helper candle which is set apart from the others.

As with all celebrations, food plays a big part in Hanukkah. Fried foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and jelly doughnuts called sufganiyot. The foods, fried in oil are to remind of the small amount of oil that lasted for days for the Maccabees.

St. Louis is lucky to have several authentic Jewish deli’s but none have won more awards or been in business longer than Protzel’s Deli—started in 1954 by Bob and Evelyn Protzel. Now being run by their great-grandchildren Max Protzel and Erica Protzel Kliethermes the third generation deli has not slowed down. They even still have input from their parents Alan and Joanie Protzel– Alan being the original Protzel’s son who worked at the deli as a kid; and Joanie contributing as a baker for special events.

Every year, Erica Protzel Kliethermes starts making the latkes in November and she makes a lot of them. When they are gone, they are gone—and they always sell out, so those wanting to commemorate Hanukkah, or just try some tasty potato pancakes need to contact Protzel’s Deli as soon as possible to place their orders.

Christians can teach their children about Hanukkah by talking about the miracle of the lights and playing the traditional Dreidel game with them. A dreidel is a little “top” that has four sides to it. It is spun and whichever side is up that shows what to do—take some candy, give up candy, etc.

As most people know Hanukkah is not the most important holiday of the year as it is (along with Easter) for Christians, however it is celebrated in a more recognizable way to coordinate with the other holidays. There is much hustling and bustling in the time coming up to Hanukkah just as there is for Christmas as there are gifts to give, celebrations to plan and of course the food to eat.

Especially in a year like 2020 it’s important to keep traditions going and even if you can’t celebrate with your normal group of family and friends, you can still observe the holiday in style with latkes and sufganiyot—because who doesn’t love potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts.

Check out Protzel’s Deli  7608 Wydown, Clayton, MO 63105

During the pandemic, to avoid too many people in the deli, they have it set up where people can email, call or fax their order in for pick up. Call (314) 721-4445

Fax: 314-727-3354.  Email:

Store hours Tuesday- Friday 7:30 – 5:30. Saturday and Sunday 7:30 -3:00
Closed Monday

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