Holidays Around the World: Hanukkah
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Hanukkah, or Chanukkah, is known as the The Festival of Lights. This annual Jewish holiday begins on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and lasts for eight days.
It symbolizes the miracle of the Hanukkah lights, when one day’s amount of oil actually burned for eight days after the Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the Syrians during the second century B.C.
Lighting the Menorah
The lighting of candles is an important, religious part of Hanukkah.
Nine candles are placed in a menorah. There is a candle for each night and a shamash (servant/helper) in the middle, which sits higher than the others.
After dark, on the first evening, a candle is put into the menorah on the right end. The middle candle is lit and three blessings (berakhot) are said. Then, using the shamash, the first candle is lit and the shamash is returned to its middle spot.
On consecutive evenings, a new candle is added from right to left; however they are lit from left to right. After the first night, only the first two blessings are given before lighting the candles.
Enjoy the fun Hanukkah custom of playing dreidel, using a traditional square-sided top and game pieces, like pretzel sticks, chocolate gelt (chocolate coins), or pennies.
You’ll notice that printed on each of the four sides are Hebrew letters representing “Nes gadol haya sham,” or “A great miracle occurred there.” The letters are also the directions for the game.
To begin, each person puts a game piece in the center “pot.” One person spins the dreidel and does the following, depending on the letter that lands face up.
- נ Nun – you do nothing.
- ג Gimmel – you take everything in the pot.
- ה Hey – you take half of the pot.
- ש Shin – you add one of your pieces to the pot.
The game continues until one person ends up with everything. Often families will have the winning player divide the pieces back out so that everyone is a winner and receives a treat.
Enjoy a Taste of Hanukkah
One of the best-known foods of Hanukkah is the potato pancake, called Latkes in Yiddish and Levivot in Hebrew. The main ingredient, shredded potatoes, are molded and fried in oil.
It’s another reminder of the oil miracle.
Consider moving your lesson into the kitchen to fry up some latkes.
If you’d like to stick with tradition, here is a great Potato Latkes recipe. This flavor goes great with sour cream and applesauce.
If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, give these Sweet Potato Latkes With Toasted Marshmallows a try. They remind me of our Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole.
Star of David Paper Craft
Create your own Star of David using cardstock and tape, just like the one we made. Simple, quick, and frugal!