image:Miniature of a Menorah, from a Hebrew Bible, Harley 5710, f. 136
During the Middle Ages there were many Hanukkah traditions celebrated by European Jews. During this time the holiday’s remembrance of martyrdom for the Jewish faith was especially emphasized.
While there were no Jewish coins in the Middle Ages, celebrants gave money to the teacher to highlight the importance of Jewish education. This money was also how he supported himself.
During the Middle Ages, Hanukkah was a time that gambling and other games were permitted by the rabbis who administered Judaic law, and playing the dreidel became a popular Hanukkah pastime.
The Jewish people linked their Hanukkah celebrations to the story of Judith, who fought for the Jewish people by feeding cheese to one of their enemy’s leaders. The cheese made him thirsty, and he then drank too much wine. Judith then cut off his head, and during the Middle Ages this was commemorated by eating cheese and other dairy foods. At some point the tradition evolved into eating cheese pancakes, and then today’s potato pancakes.