Top 3 Tips to Help Kids Learn About and Celebrate Hanukkah

Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas has always been a joy for me. Growing up, I learned about two faiths as my mom is Christian and my dad is Jewish. I always love the holidays and the traditions we were able to create as a family. My parents helped to teach me and my sister about the meaning of Christmas and Hanukkah through reading and activities! So now I’m passing on to you my top 3 tips to help kids learn about and celebrate Hanukkah.

I always knew I wanted to carry on the same traditions and teach my kids the meaning of Hanukkah at a young age. As we do in other areas of development, I knew reading books even before she could truly understand, is important. My top three tips below are for those who celebrate and for those who do not! Even if you don’t celebrate, it’s an opportunity to help our kids understand other faiths and how they are celebrated!

Talk about the Menorah to Help Kids Learn About and Celebrate Hanukkah

The History
The menorah is a lamp with nine branches that glow each day. Today, we use candles to light the menorah. Thousands of years ago, only pure olive oil was used in a menorah and kept in a sealed tight container for the high priest of the Temple to approve. The story goes that after the Maccabees won the fight against the Greeks, they went to the Temple to find everything broken, including the menorah. Upon cleaning up, they decided to have a party and a dedication ceremony. They found only a small amount of the pure olive oil remaining, enough for one day. The miracle is the oil ended up lasting for eight days which gave them time to make more. That is why there are eight nights of lighting candles!

The “server” candle is called the shamash which is the one you use to light the other candles. This is in the middle and generally is taller than the other eight candles. You light one per night, adding a candle each night. They are lit at sunset and a prayer is said. 

What to do
Talk about the story of the menorah and the miracle of the oil lasting for eight nights when it was supposed to last for one! We bought this play menorah for Lucy from Pottery Barn last year. Right now, we use it as a recognition tool and for her to have her own. We will be lighting the candles every night and you can find coloring pages to color in your menorah!

Play Games and Gift Giving

The History
We all have heard of the Dreidle and the gifts associated with Hanukkah. They are in every kid’s book you’ll read. The Dreidle is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters on each side. The game became popular when the Jewish people met to study the Torah (the Jewish Bible), even when they weren’t supposed to. When they heard soldiers coming, they hid the scriptures and pretended to play with the Dreidle. 

The root of the word Hanukkah means education as well as dedication. Traditionally, children were given “gelt”, real coins, or chocolate wrapped with gold foil. It is believed that parents started this so their children could give their teachers a present. As Jews eventually came in contact with Christians, they learned about Christmas gifts. Today, gelt is still common as well as the exchange of presents just like Christmas.

What to do
Show your kiddos what a Dreidle looks like and play with it! It doesn’t have to be the exact game, as I always found trying to make my spin the longest was more fun. Each side has a Yiddish word which represents how much of the coins or candy that player receives. If you’d like to play the game, this is a great explanation!

This year, we decided to give Lucy eight books (one per night) as part of her present. Similar to the Christmas tradition, they are all Hanukkah-related and all board books! Check out the blog post here from Katie where she talks about books to celebrate holidays around the world that you can add to your kid’s library!

Cook with your kids

Many of the foods eaten during Hanukkah are cooked in oil as a reminder of the miracle that the oil lasted for eight days. I have found potato latkes and sufganiyot to be the most popular!

What to do
Sufganiyot are Israeli doughnuts. They are dropped in hot oil without being shaped and come out in odd shapes. It’s always fun to see what they will turn out like!
My absolute favorite is latkes. The most popular are potatoes and you can eat them plain or with applesauce and sour cream. They are a staple at our Hanukkah dinners and I believe my dad makes them the best. The recipes we use can be found in “The Complete Family Guide to Jewish Holidays”.

Growing up, talking about Jewish holidays was common in my house, and I plan on doing the same with my kids. At the end of the day, whether you celebrate or not, I believe in the importance of introducing our kids to the different holidays that occur all year long for different faiths. I hope you found these tips helpful! Be sure to follow me and if you have any questions, let me know!


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