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).
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), (gimel), (heh) and (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) is replaced by (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!
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
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.
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.