Hanukkah, which means "dedication" and is also referred to as "The Festival of Lights", is a Jewish festival which begins on the Hebrew date of the 25th of Kislev and lasts eight days, through the 2nd of Tevet. This year, that corresponds to November 30 through December 7th. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees (led by Judah) over the Hellenistic Syrians in a revolt that took place around 165 BCE (note: Jews use BCE--Before the Common Era and CE--the Common Era instead of BC and AD).

The victory in itself was considered a miracle, but Jewish legend gives an additional explanation for Hanukkah rituals, explained below. Once the Temple Mount in Jerusalem had been reclaimed, the Temple had to be rededicated. According to legend, only one jar of sacramental oil was found, enough for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, thus the eight days of Hanukkah.

The most important Hanukkah ritual is the candle lighting. Jews light candles in a special candleholder called a "menorah" or a "hanukkiah". Each night, one more candle is added. The middle candle, called the "shamash", is used to light each of the other candles and it is lit every night. Therefore, on the first night of Hanukkah, two candles are lit (the shamash and the candle for the first night) and on the last night, there are nine lit candles.



 *****Patterns and directions for students to make a Menorah are included in the December Ideas.  Click on the Menorah for more information.



Hanukkah Traditions


Another tradition is to play the "dreidel" game. A dreidel (or "sivivon") is a four-sided top. On each side is a different Hebrew letter: nun (nun), gimel (gimel), heh (heh) and peh (peh), corresponding to the words in the sentence "nes gadol haya po" ("A great miracle happened here"). Of course, the miracle happened in Israel, so outside of Israel, the letter peh (peh) is replaced by shin (shin) for "nes gadol haya sham" ("A great miracle happened there"). The dreidel is used for a gambling game in which each letter represents a different amount of money (or whatever...) won or lost.

Another common Hanukkah practice is giving gifts or "gelt" (money) to children. In Hebrew, "gelt" is called "d'mei Hanukkah".





      Literature for Hanukkah

My First Chanukah by Tomie de Paola

A Picture Book of Hanukkah by David Adler

All About Hanukkah by Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler

Latkes and Applesauce by Fran Manushkin

The Miracle of the Potato Latkes by Malka Penn

Chanukkah Guest by Eric Kimmel




Activities for Hanukkah

1.  Hanukkah Card

Using blue construction paper put a pattern of a candle on the blue paper.  Sponge thin water tempera over and around the candle.  Carefully remove the candle shape.  Write a message inside the card.


2.  Play the Dreidel Game

Dreidels can be purchased at a party supply store.  Let the children play the dreidel game in small groups. 

3.  Sing "The Dreidel Song"  (traditional)

      I have a little dreidel.

      I made it out of clay.

      And when it's dry and ready,

      Oh dreidel I shall play.

       I made it out of clay.

       When it's dry and ready,

       Oh dreidel I shall play!

4.  Movement

Let the children spin around as if they were dreidels.  One child can start out in a crouching position, and another can pretend to be turning him or her.  As the top spins faster, the child gets to spin more.

5.  Read the story of The Miracle of the Potato Latkes. This is a wonderful story that you might have to read  explain to the children as you go along.   Make latkes using the recipe at the end of the story.

Tante Golda's Famous Potato Latke Recipe

4 potatoes

1 onion

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons  flour

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1.  Wash the potatoes and peel them.  Then grate them and place them in a bowl of cold water. (The water will keep them from turning brown while you're preparing the rest of the recipe.)

2.  Peel the onion and chop it into small pieces.

3.  Beat the egg in a large mixing bow.  Add the chopped onion, salt and pepper and flour.

4.  Drain the potatoes in a colander and squeeze the excess water out with your hands.  Add the potatoes to the other ingredients and stir until well-blended.

5. Heat half the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Drop the potato mixture in by the tablespoon and cook until browned on both sides. 

6.  Drain on paper towels.  Continue making latkes until the mixture is used up, adding more oil as necessary.

7.  Serve warm with applesauce as a topping.

Serves 4-6



This is another food prepared in oil that is served during Hanukkah in parts of the world.  Serve this or make donut holes with the class.

7.  Invite a guest speaker to come into the classroom to explain the history of Hanukkah and how Hanukkah is celebrated in his/her home.  If some of your students celebrate the holiday, they can share their experiences.

8.  Using two triangle shapes, glue them together to make the Star of David.  Spread glue over the whole star and dip in a box filled with glitter! 




9.  Marshmallow Menorah

Give each child a piece of tagboard 11x4", ten marshmallows and nine candles.  have the children spread some frosting on the bottom of each marshmallow and then put them onto the tagboard.  With the frosting, "glue" a second marshmallow on top of the middle marshmallow to create the shammash or "servant."  Poke birthday candles into each marshmallow to create a menorah.

10.  Candle Treats

 Using an empty toilet paper roll, make a candle treat using tissue paper.   Follow this link  for directions.