Welcome, kids, to a joyous journey through the Jewish festival of lights, Hanukkah!
Let’s uncover some exciting facts about this special holiday celebrated by Jewish families around the world. From flickering candles to delicious treats, Hanukkah is a time filled with traditions and stories that have been passed down for generations.
Get ready to learn everything about this festival of lights with these Hanukkah Facts for Kids!
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is an 8-night-long celebration. Celebrated by Jewish people all around the world. Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. Hanukkah can begin anywhere from late November through December.
The word Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to dedicate.”
What does Hanukkah Celebrate?
In the year 167 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes, a Seleucid King of the Hellenistic Syrian Empire, sent his soldiers to Jerusalem and took over the Jewish Temple. Antiochus also outlawed Judaism.
They set up the sacred temple to worship Greek Gods and renamed it after the Greek God Zeus.
On the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev, the Jewish people led by the Maccabees family revolted and took back their temple, known as the Maccabean Revolt.
They cleansed the Temple and re-dedicated it. They brought back Jewish worship and named Jonathan Apphus as a high priest. Hanukkah is the celebration of winning the war against the Greeks and getting back their temple.
Hanukkah was said to last 8 days parallel to the 8-day festival of Sukkot. However, legend says that when the Jewish people took back their temple, they lit a small jar of oil for light. The small jar had only enough oil to stay lit for one night, but a miracle happened, and it stayed lit for 8 nights.
A menorah is a special and important object in the Jewish religion. It is a candelabrum (candleholder) that is used during Hanukkah. The menorah holds nine candles. Ithas a main candle called the “shamash” and eight branches that hold other candles.
On each night of Hanukkah, families light one candle on the menorah to celebrate and remember the miracle of the oil that burned 8 days in the temple long ago.
The shamash is lit first, and then it is used to light the other candles.
the Shamash, which is also known as the “attendant,” “servant,” or “helper” candle. The Shamash is usually in the middle and set a little bit higher than the other candles.
People place candles on the menorah from right to left and light them from left to right.
Originally people used to keep menorahs outside, but now they typically keep them in front of a window.
The 8 candles are for each night of Hanukkah. The eight candles represent the eight nights that the oil burned.
What is a Dreidel?
Dreidel is Yiddish for “spinning Top”
The dreidel is a spinning top with four sides, each featuring a Hebrew letter. The letters on the dreidel represent the words in Hebrew, “A great miracle happened here.”
The dreidel has a pointed shape.
Nun – Yiddish for nisht or Nothing
Shin- Yiddish for shtel or put in
Hey – Yiddish for halb or half
Gimmel – Yiddish for gantz or everything
Playing the dreidel game is a popular activity for Hanukkah
Here is how you play
Each player gets an equal number of tokens (coins, candy etc..). 10 or tokens is best.
To start, each player puts one of their tokens in the pot (the middle of the playing area)
On your turn, you spin the dreidel
If the dreidel lands on nun, you get nothing
When it lands on Shin, you put in one token
If the dreidel lands on hey, you get half the pot
If it lands on gimmel, you get the whole pot.
After everyone has a chance to spin the dreidel, a new round begins, and everyone places a new token into the pot. You are out of the game when you have no more tokens. The winner of the game is the last player standing.
During Hanukkah, there are many exciting activities that kids like us can enjoy! Here are some fun things we can do:
Lighting the Menorah: One candle is lit Each night of Hanukkah. It’s so cool to see all the candles shining brightly!
Playing the Dreidel Game: Children play a fun game with a spinning top called a dreidel. It has different symbols on each side, and we take turns spinning it. We can win coins or yummy treats while playing this game with our family and friends.
Making Hanukkah Crafts: During Hanukkah, some kids create colorful paper dreidels, design menorahs using clay or popsicle sticks, or make beautiful Hanukkah cards for our loved ones.
Singing Hanukkah Songs: There are special songs we can sing during Hanukkah. We can learn the lyrics and sing along with our family. Some popular songs are “I Have a Little Dreidel” and “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah.”
Cooking Delicious Treats: Hanukkah is a time for yummy food! Fried foods are eaten for Hanukkah, kids can help make traditional Hanukkah dishes like latkes, which are crispy potato pancakes, or sufganiyot, which are jelly-filled doughnuts.
Exchanging Gifts: Hanukkah is a time for giving and receiving presents. Kids can make or buy special gifts for our family members and friends. Seeing their happy faces when they open the presents we’ve chosen for them is always exciting.
Reading Hanukkah Stories: Kids can read stories about Hanukkah with family and loved ones. They can learn about the brave Maccabees, the miracle of the oil, and the importance of spreading kindness and love during this special holiday.
Hanukkah Facts for Kids
Here are some amazing Hanukkah facts all kids should know.
- Hanukkah is Hebrew for “to dedicate.” You can spell it in many ways, including Chanukah or Chanukkah.
- Some people call it the Festival of Lights or Festival of Dedication.
- Originally, gift-giving wasn’t a part of the holiday, but people used to give children gelt (chocolate coins) as a reward for studying the Torah. People later started giving gifts because Hanukkah is celebrated close to Christmas.
- To symbolize the miracle of the oil burning for 8 nights, people serve many traditional foods on Hanukkah that they fry in oil.
- Traditional Hanukkah foods include: potato pancakes called latkes, noodle or potato casserole called kugel, gelt (chocolate coins), jelly doughnuts called sufaniyot.
- Fun Fact: People in Israel eat 17.5 million donuts during Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is a special and joyful holiday celebrated by Jewish families around the world.
Families come together during Hanukkah, a time filled with traditions, stories, and exciting activities.
From lighting the menorah and playing the dreidel game to enjoying delicious treats and exchanging gifts, Hanukkah is a festival of lights and love. It teaches us important lessons of bravery, perseverance, and the power of miracles.