A very Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate, as it began at sundown on Nov. 28 and runs through the evening of Dec. 6.
Quick history on Hanukkah
For those who aren’t familiar, here are some basics about this holiday.
There are at least two ways to spell the name of this holiday: Hanukkah, and Chanukah. That’s because it is a Hebrew word “transliterated” into English, meaning sounded out.
The story behind Hanukkah is that a small band of Israelites were victorious over a much larger army that sought to wipe them out during Syrian-Greek rule in the 2nd century BCE. During this conflict, the oppressing army had raided and destroyed their Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
When the Jews were finally able to reclaim their Temple, they found the sacred lamp, called a menorah, extinguished. This lamp is supposed to provide eternal light. They found only one tiny remaining vial of olive oil needed to light the lamp — which should have only lasted a single day. Yet miraculously, the lamp continued to burn for 8 days while a messenger journeyed to another region to fetch more oil.
So began the ritual of lighting one candle per night until all eight Hanukkah candles are lit. Hanukkah always begins on the eve of the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which is why it does not always fall on the same dates in the secular month of December or earlier as it does in 2021. It celebrates “the triumph of light over darkness.” The word itself means “dedication” — specifically, the re-dedication of the Temple.
It is a tradition to eat foods fried in oil as a nod to the oil that lasted 8 nights. In particular, potato pancakes called latkes are traditionally eaten, topped with either apple sauce or sour cream.
For those who live with diabetes and celebrate this holiday, Hanukkah can be a challenge when it comes to managing blood sugars and not having high or low glucose levels impacting the festivities.
This is a special time, and we’re happy to see our Diabetes Community recognizing it in many ways — including this cool “Hanukkah Survival Guide for Type 1” from Beyond Type 1.
For many people with diabetes (PWDs), though, Hanukkah is manageable and doesn’t need to be impacted by diabetes. Correctly measuring the amount one eats and treating correctly is the key.
In New York, longtime T1D Dan Fleshler says he has never considered Hanukkah to be a daunting holiday relating to his diabetes.
“As far as I know, no insulin is necessary when one lights candles for the menorah,” he joked. “The most common traditional dish, a medium potato latke, is about 10 grams of carbs. Add in apples and sour cream and, at least according to this recipe, it’s 27 grams. We eat those with salad and some kind of too-fatty protein, like brisket. For me, Thanksgiving is far more challenging.”
Longtime T1D advocate Gail deVore in Colorado echoes that sentiment. Her family makes a lot of food but while it’s easy to over-indulge, she considers Hanukkah a minor holiday in terms of managing her diabetes.
“It’s so easy to over indulge and run high. Especially with the oil from frying latkes and in the sour cream,” she said. “Measuring is not easy but having a ballpark to bolus and then keep an eye on our blood sugar will work wonders in being able to fully enjoy the 8 days of light.
She notes that latkes are carbs and oil, plus applesauce and sour cream, so for her it’s not difficult to carb count and treat as needed to avoid higher blood sugars.
“In Judaism we have a saying that holds true 101% of the time: They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”
Our fellow blogger friends Jessica Apple over at A Sweet Life diabetes magazine once told DiabetesMine that her when she was diagnosed with T1D as an adult in 2008 during the holiday season, her doctor immediately told her that Hanukkah favorites such as potato latkes, jelly doughnuts, and the traditional chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil — all higher carb foods — were all out of the question.
She’d grown up in Texas before moving with her husband Michael to Tel Aviv, Israel, so Apple says she knew firsthand how to handle the task of finding healthier food options. She’s since adjusted her recipes to include low-carb latkes and other treats.
“As a modern woman in the 21st century, however, I hope I’ll be able to resist food with grace, and never feel the need to publicly disparage baked goods,” she shared with DiabetesMine previously.