Fun Hanukkah Facts for Kids

Hanukkah Facts for Kids

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is an 8 night long celebration.  Celebrated by Jewish people all around the world.  It is celebrated on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev.  Hanukkah can begin anywhere from late November through December.

What Does Hanukkah Celebrate?

In the year 167 BCE Antiochus Epiphanes a Seleucid King of the Hellenistic Syrian Empire sent his soldiers into Jerusalem and took over the Jewish Temple. Antiochus also outlawed Judaism.  The sacred temple was set up to worship Greek Good and was renamed 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 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 there was a small jar of oil that they lit for light.  The small jar had enough oil to stay lit for one night but a miracle happened and it stayed lit for 8 nights.


A menorah is a special candelabrum that hold nine candles.

Candles are placed on the menorah from right to left and lit left to right.

Menorahs were originally kept outside, but are now usually kept in front of a window.

The 8 candles represent each night of Hanukkah.

The 9th candle is called the Shamash 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.  It is used to light the other candles.

What is a Dreidel?

Dreidel is Yiddish for “spinning Top”

A dreidel is a pointed 4-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side

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 driedel lands on nun, you get nothing

When it lands on Shin, you put in one token

If the driedel 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.

Hanukkah Facts

  • Hanukkah is Hebrew for “to dedicate.”
  • It can be spelled many ways including Chanukah or Chanukkah.
  • Some people call it the Festival of Lights or Festival of Dedication.
  • Gift giving wasn’t originally part of the holiday, but children were given gelt (chocolate coins) money as incentive for studying the Torah.  Gifts were added because the holiday is close to Christmas.
  • Many traditional foods served on Hanukkah are fried in oil to symbolize the miracle of the oil burning for 8 nights.
  • Traditional Hanukkah foods include: potato pancakes called latkes, noodle or potato casserole called kugel, gelt (chocolate coins), jelly doughnuts called sufaniyot
  • Fun Fact – 17.5 million donuts are eaten in Israel during Hanukkah