Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Chanukah!

Posted by Simcha 8:28 PM, under | 12 comments

I love the holiday of Chanukah.

I love the cozy atmosphere that pervades that house as we light the menorahs with our children and then watch the flames dance on the colored candles as we sing Ma'Oz Tzo, and enjoy the delicious fried latkas* and sweet sufganiot*.

Afterwards, my husband and children gather on the living room floor for their annual game of draidel* played with the most valued currency of all, chocolate coins. Meanwhile, I collect the presents from their hiding places around the house (some of which weren't hidden well enough and have already been discovered by my two year old) which I hand out to my kids as they squeal in excited glee and then watch as they tear off the wrappings and lose themselves in exploring their new toys.

And now, as my kids all sleep soundly with their new toys firmly tucked into their beds beside them (yes, they insist in sleeping with their presents) I think about my other favorite part of Chanukah, the exciting story behind it all. The tale of the Jewish heroes who stood up against the oppression of the Greek rulers, refusing to allow any more Jews to be massacred for practicing their religion. And the miracles that took place, allowing the small band of Jewish rebels to defeat the Greek army and then the discovery of the small vile of oil, necessary to relight the Temple's Menorah, which was supposed to be lit 24-hours a day, and which somehow lasted for eight full days, just enough time for more oil to be prepared.

I realize that it's no wonder that I'm drawn to reading fantasy when I've grown up on stories such as these. In fact, many of the themes popular in classic fantasy novels can be found within the Torah and Book of Prophets. I've been weaned on stories from our history which are full of miracles, prophecies, romances, betrayals exciting battles and even farm boys that become kings (see the story of King David), and so when I started reading fantasy novels many of those stories were already familiar to me, and didn't really seems that far-fetched.

Following this line-of-thought I thought it would be interesting to invite a few different Jewish science fiction and fantasy authors to see what their take is on the relationship between Judaism and speculative fiction and on how it effects their writing. I received a warm response to this idea from the authors that I approached, and so I'm excited to be able to present you with a week of Jewish SFF authors here at SFF Chat.

Here is some of what you can expect to find here over the next few days (and not necessarily in this order:

  • An interview with Jane Yolen along with a giveaway of one of her books
  • A Blog post from Ari Marmell about why he doesn't include Jewish themes in his writing and a giveaway of The Conqueror's Shadow and The Warlord's Legacy
  • A blog post from Kate Elliott about why she does include Jewish-like characters and themes in her books and a giveaway of Cold Magic.
  • An interview with Ann VenderMeer and a giveaway of The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals.
  • A blog post from David Brin responding to the claim that Jews don't write fantasy literature and a giveaway of Before They Were Giants.
  • An original short story from Lavie Tidhar and a giveaway of his newest book, An Occupation of Angels.
  • A blog post by Rachel Swirsky about her upcoming anthology of Jewish science fiction and fantasy, People of the Book, along with a giveaway of the book.

I have had a wonderful time putting all of this together and getting to interact with some of my favorite authors and I hope you will all enjoy it as much as I did. So be sure to stay tuned every day this week for some Jewish SFF awesomness here at SFF Chat.

Happy Chanukah to all!

* Sufganiot: Deep-fried doughnuts sprinkled with powdered sugar and traditionally filled with jelly, though these days caramel and chocolate have also become popular fillings for sufganiot. A favorite Chanukah past time of ours, since coming to Israel, is visiting as many bakeries as possible and comparing each one's sufganiot to see whose is the best.*Draidel: A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. It is used during Hanukkah to play a popular children's game that involves spinning the dreidel and betting on which Hebrew letter will be showing when the dreidel stops spinning. Children usually play for a pot of gelt, which are chocolate coins covered in gold colored tin foil, but they can also play for candy, nuts, raisins – anything really! (From

* Latkas: Fried potato pancakes traditionally eaten on Chanukah and delicious with apple sauce or sour cream (I go with the apple sauce)


Sounds like a great month you have planned! Happy Chanukah!

what lovely, wonderful traditions. and latkas sounds so yummy! thanks for sharing simcha! :)

i'm looking forward to all the chanukah posts.

Happy Chanukah!
I hope all is well with you and your hamily!

Happy Hanukkah :)
Have a great holiday.

During religion class when little those stories were the ones that made me like the subject. Guess that is why I went to fantasy too

And mmm those sufganiots looks so yummy

Oh I can't wait for your interviews! I can't believe you were able to put it all together.

I have this beautiful scene in my mind of you and your family celebrating Chanukah. I feel like having doughnuts now...

I'm going to admit right now that I'm not all that familiar with Chanuakah, and for some reason I feel like a bad person right now for it. It sounds like a lot of fun with a lot of history and meaning behind.

I do have a quesiton though, can you send some of those latkas my way?

Happy Chanukah Simcha! Great to see the stuff you've put together around this theme for your blog :)

I enjoyed reading this post :)
Happy Chanukah!!!

Thank you for a wonderful post, and for what looks to be an excellent month of reading here. What you have planned looks tremendous. I'm excited to see what these authors have to say.

Can not wait until Ann Vandermeer day! Will evil monkey be joining her? their "Kosher Guide" is the most hilarious thing I've ever come across!!

and latkes! I'm hoping to make latkes tomorrow! can't wait!

Ever tried them w/ greek yogurt? it's a little like sour cream but minus the heart attack.

Thanks Bryce :)

Michelle: Latkas are delicious though grating all those potatoes can be a bit of a pain

Ramona: You too. I haven't been by to vist in a while but will try to do so soon.

Blodeuedd: The book of Prophets was always my favorite because it was full of exciting stories though I never before realized how similar those stories are to those in the fantasy books that I currently read. It was an interesting realization.

Stephanie: That's the image I was going for, now if only I could make it a reality for each of the nights of Chanukah (that's the real challenge ;) )

Ryan: Oh, don't feel bad about not knowing about Chanukah. Unless you're Jewish, in case you should feel bad (just kidding). Though is a joke that all jewish holidays can be summerized in three sentances. They tried to kill us. We defeated them. Let's eat.
So that shold suffice for your knowledge of Jewish holidays ;)
And I'd love to send you some latkes except they'd be all cold and soggy.

Thanks Jason. I had a lot of fun with this, particularly gettting to interact with all of these awesome authors.

Jessica: Thanks so much! It will be awesome and I'm really glad you stopped by.

Redhead: Nah, Ann left the Evil Monkey at home but the interview is still great :) I also really enjoyed the Kosher Guide, though was dissapointed that so few of the animals weren't kosher. I guess I'll just go hungry then.
I've never tried latkes with Greek yogurt but it sounds like an interesting (if rather ironic) idea. Kind of like the Greek Chanukah I went to last year (hosted by my Greek friends and with some delicious Greek sufganiot)

When I was growing in Engl;and my non-Jewish friends loved to come and visit us during Hanukkah.

And did a doughnut survey this year.Some were very average but others were quite delicious.

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