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Chanukah (Hanukkah) for Kids

History and Customs

Chanukah is known as the "festival of Lights".  It starts at sundown on the 25th day of the month Kislev on the Jewish calendar.  Chanukah celebrates both religious and military triumphs of ancient Jewish heroes. This holiday lasts for eight days and nights, and during this time there are blessings, songs, games, and festive foods.  Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish community but it is very well known in the United States because it is so close to Christmas. 

This holiday does require a series of customs to be performed during the eight days but Jewish people are not required to refrain from other activities as with other holidays.   After the blessings most families will have a traditional meal, exchange presents, play with the dreidel and give coins to the children.  Chanukah traditions include special foods such as potato pancakes called latkes, and doughnuts known as sufganiot which are fried in oil.  The dreidel is a spinning top inscribed with Hebrew letters that are an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Saham, which translates to "a great miracle happened here".

The Greek-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV tried to force all the people in his territory to practice Greek cultures.  This meant that the Jews of Judea could not perform their most important religious practices as well as the study of the Torah.  Even though the Jews were outnumbered they felt obligated to protect their community and religious beliefs.  They were led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and then his son Judas when he died.  The soldiers were not trained and they had simple weapons.  They fought for years before each battle they would go without food and pray.  Finally Judas and his men defeated the Greeks.  They reclaimed the temple on Jerusalem's Mount Moriah.  After their claim they prepared the temple for rededication.  When they went into the temple they found only enough oil to light the temple for a single day.  Surprisingly the light continued to burn for eight days. 

The lighting of the Menorah is the most important Chanukah tradition. The Menorah is candle stand that has nine branches.  All the branches are the same size in height except for the middle branch that is taller.  There are usually eight candles put in the Menorah, one for each day of Chanukah.  The middle candle, the shamash, is used to light the other candles.  Every night they say a special blessing and light another candle.  The eight candles in the Menorah symbolize the burning light in the Temple, as well as the eight days of the Chanukah celebration.  The menorah should be placed near a window to remind others of the miracle of this holiday.
 

Recipes

Hanukkah Cookies 

Required Ingredients: 

Note: Hanukkah shaped cookie cutters are required for this recipe.  They can be purchased at your local craft store, or online at Crate&Barrel, which has a three piece set for $3.95.

1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar 
1 egg
2 tbsp. orange juice 
2 c. flour 
2 tsp. baking powder 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1/4 tsp. vanilla flavoring 

Instructions: 

Cream together butter and sugar then add egg, and orange juice. In another bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add this to the creamed mixture and thoroughly mix. Blend in the vanilla flavoring and place in the refrigerator to chill for several hours or over night.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
On a lightly floured board roll out dough to an 1/8 inch thick.
Cut into "dreidel", "star" or "menorah" shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes and cool before removing from cookie sheet.

Hanukkah Latkes

Ingredients:

3 large eggs
1/3 cup of flour
5 large potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
oil for frying

Instructions:

Grind the potatoes and then mix well with eggs, flour and salt .  Warm oil in a large frying pan on medium heat.  Pour spoonfuls of batter into the warm oil and let it fry for about five minutes. Turn over and let fry on the other side for approximately three minutes.  Remove from pan and place on a paper towel to cool.
 

Fun Websites

Gift Ideas

Make Your Own Hanukkah Coupon Booklet

Hanukkah Gift Ideas for Kids
 

Hanukkah Songs

Children's Song Lyrics and Sound Clips

 

Hanukkah Games

Gift Wrap Relay

WHAT YOU NEED FOR EACH TEAM:

Note: Two players per team

Party favors

Box

Wrapping paper

Tape

Ribbon

HOW TO SET UP GAME:
Put out two party favors, one box, a sheet of wrapping paper, tape and ribbon for each team.

Each team must race to wrap the favors in the box and tie a bow. Of course there is a catch  --  they must hold one hand behind their back, The object is to make the partners communicate and work together to complete the gift wrapping task. The first team to finish wins the gift or the team with the best time wins.

Word Scramble

In advance select ten - twelve Hanukkah words and scramble them.  Create a list of scrambled words and a copy for each team. Be sure to mix up the words on the sheet so that each team gets them in a different order.  Divide the group of children into even teams with 2 - 4 players per team.  Give each group a list of scrambled words and a pencil.  Set a timer for 5 - 10 minutes. The object is to unscramble the words as quickly as possible.  An adult should be available to write down finish times for each group. The group that rearranges the maximum number of words within the time frame is the winner.

Word Ideas

Latkes

Dreidel

Candles

Oil

Gelt

Chanukah

Hebrew

Prayers

Holiday

Eight

Maccabees

Shin

Ktales

Ledierd

Nacseld

Loi

Etlg

Hakunahc

Breewh

Serayrp

Yadohil

Thieg

Camacsebe

Hins

Chocolate Gelt Hunt

Step One - Creating Baskets for Hunt

Start early and collect pint size strawberry baskets for each child.
Pipe clearers
Inexpensive Hanukkah ribbon or construction paper cut in strips.

Let the kids weave the ribbon or construction paper through the holes in the basket to decorate. 

Use pipe cleaners to form a handle and attach to opposite sides of basket.  Decorate with traditional Hanukkah theme.

Step Two The Hunt

Before guest arrive, check the weather forecast to make sure all is OK and then hide the Chocolate Gelt in easy as well as difficult locations  throughout your yard. You want to keep them challenged but not so much that they get frustrated.

Create a path to the location of the hunt.  A good thing to use outside to create a path or foot prints is sidewalk chalk. Assign each child a specific number to collect so no child gets left out.

Make a Dreidel

The Dreidel is a traditional game children play during the Hanukkah celebration.  The Dreidel is a four sided top with Hebrew letters on each side: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin), . The game is played in groups of 4-6.  Each player starts with an equal number of playing pieces (stones, pennies, candy etc..).  Each player takes a turn spinning the dreidel.  If it lands on Nun the player receives nothing; The Gimel means the player takes the whole pot; Hay means the player takes half the pot; Shin requires the player to add a piece to the pot.  Each time the pot is emptied each player puts in a playing piece and the game continues.  If a player is out of pieces they are either out or can ask another player for a loan.

Click here for pattern and instructions for Making a Dreidel.

Spy Code Hanukkah Game

Use the code system below to create a secret message for the kids to decipher.  To make it more fun set a timer.
Numbers Stand for Letters: For example 1 stands for A, 2 stands for B, 3 stands for C etc...

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J   K   L  M 
 1   2   3  4  5  6   7  8  9 10 11 12  13

N  O   P  Q   R  S   T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
  14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

YOUR CODE COULD BE:

8    1   14    21    11    11    1    8       

3   5   12   5   2   18   1   20   9   15   14            

 6   21   14     

DECIPHERED

Hanukkah Celebration Fun

Hanukkah Activities

Hanukkah Word Search

Click here for << printable format >> then click file/print
C D I V A D F O R A T S
A R O M E N O R A H P L
G E E I N K K A I K R E
E I G H L M A N C H A D
L L Y I E L A T K E S I
T S A N L T O C W B E E
L E D U I O H N E R I R
A L I T E H U G B E D D
T D L R G E S R I W D P
R N O M A C C A B E E S
O A H S S R E Y A R P U
C C A M H A K K U N A H

CANDLES

GELT

LATKES

HANUKKAH

OIL

HEBREW

HOLIDAY

MACCABEES

SHIN

EIGHT

DREIDEL

PRAYERS

MENORAH

STAR OF DAVID

    Additional Ideas for Hanukkah Activities