This year, the holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, begins on the eve of December 25th. Throughout the world, families will gather round to say blessings, light candles, sing songs, and enjoy traditional holiday foods. Whether families enjoy small gatherings, or larger celebrations with friends and neighbors, Hanukkah is always festive.
During Hanukkah, we remember the story of the brave Macabees, who fought for religious freedom in ancient times. When the Jews returned to their desecrated temple, they found but a tiny bit of pure oil to light their holy lamp. The oil was enough to last just one day, but a miracle occurred. The oil lasted eight days. It is this miracle that is celebrated on Hanukkah. That's why each night for the eight nights of Hanukkah, a new candle is placed on the candelabra called a menorah. Traditionally, the menorah is placed in a front window in order to share the light with neighbors. Children usually receive a small amount of money or a little gift each night.
In remembrance of the oil, Hanukkah foods include fried potato pancakes, called latkes, and jelly donuts called sufganiyot. Children also enjoy playing a rousing game of dreidyl. A dreidyl is like a spinning top with Hebrew letters on each side. Player use candies or chocolate coins called gelt to play the game. When a player spins the dreidel, he or she will either take some treats from the pot, or put some into the pot.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS AND VIDEOS
Retelling this story of Hanukkah is always part of the celebration. There are some terrific books to share with younger kids, such as Latkes and Applesauce
, by Fran Manushkin and Robin Spowart, a charming tale about a family who shares what little they have with unexpected guests, a stray cat and dog. Another great book is The Chanukkah Guest
by Eric Kimmel and Gloria Carmi. This witty story of comic confusion finds Bubba Brayna as she prepares for holiday guests. When "Old Bear" arrives, Bubba believes he is one of her guests and graciously offers him a delicious meal. Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah
, featuring the delightful arachnid who longs to join in on a family's celebration, is a holiday classic among the pre-school set.
Don't rule out Hanukkah videos the whole family can watch together. Kids of all ages love A Rugrats Chanukah
. Adorable Tommy plays the heroic role of a Macabee in this fun retelling of the traditional Hanukkah story. Chanuka at Bubbe's
is another amusing video, starring endearing puppet characters who live at Bubbe's Boarding House
. The PBS Home Video, A Taste Of Chanukah
, is a fantastic musical variety celebration with performances by Theodore Bikel, the New England Conservatory of Music, a gospel choir, and more. There are even some wonderful comic elements.
Books and videos can be part of a Hanukkah celebration, but they are also
a great way to learn about Hanukkah if it is not a holiday you celebrate. For more ideas about Hanukkah activities, your local bookstore is a great resource for craft books, games, music and more.
SOME FUN IDEAS FOR HANUKKAH
Here are a few activities you might want to try with your kids:
Make a menorah out of construction paper, using foil for the flames. It can stay in your window for the whole holiday.
Play pin the flame on the candle with a cardboard menorah and paper candles
Bake sugar cookies using Hanukkah cookie cutters and decorate with blue and white sprinkles
Create a Family Hanukkah scrapbook. Photos always make great memories. There are lots of terrific stickers you can use for decorations, but markers and crayons are fun, too.
- If Hanukkah occurs during the school year, talk to your child's teachers about doing a presentation in the classroom. You can make latkes, or just keep it simple and read a book and teach the kids how to play dreidel.
Remember, traditions are best when they can be shared with others. Have a Happy Hanukkah!
*** There are many different ways to spell Hanukkah, including, Hanukah, Chanukah, and Chanukkah !
About Barbara Bietz
Barbara Bietz is a freelance writer from Oak Park, California. Her favorite pastime is reading children's books. Barbara enjoys writing for adults and children. Her work has appeared in numerous publications.