Rabbi Shaul Perlstein said the idea of Jewish people eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day because no other places are open is not really a custom. But eating latkes during Hanukkah is.
Chabad of Chattanooga is hosting a Grand Menorah Lighting at Coolidge Park today at 5 p.m., followed by a latke-eating contest at the adjacent River Street Deli.
"It's more of a fun event," said Perlstein, co-director of the organization.
Festivities will begin, he said, with the lighting of a menorah by Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. A Hanukkah buffet featuring a Chinese dish -- to acknowledge the joked-about tradition -- will follow at the restaurant.
Latkes, sometimes known as potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, known as jelly doughnuts, also will be served. Fried foods, according to Perlstein, are representative of "the miracle of Hanukkah," in which lamp oil enough for "one day [for a menorah] lasted for eight days" in the ancient temple.
The latke-eating contest was first done in 2010 as a fundraiser for Beth Sholom Congregation.
"It was a great event," said Perlstein, rabbi for the congregation, "so we thought, why not keep it up."
The contest will be limited to 10 participants, he said.
Last year's winner, David Israel, will return to defend his title, Perlstein said. The winner polished off close to 20 latkes, he said.
The latke cooks, according to Perlstein, will be River Street Deli owner Bruce Weiss and veteran latke cook Sam Roistacher.
In addition to the menorah-lighting ceremony, buffet and contest, crafts, games and dreidels will be available for adults and children. The public is invited to the events but reservations (490-1106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) are needed.
The cost for the buffet is $5 per person or $18 to be a sponsor.
Contact Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 757-6497.