The word “Hanukkah” comes from the Hebrew meaning dedication. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration known for being The Festival of Lights, representing joy, warmth, comfort, and miracles. The holiday is often spelled in different ways. Believe it or not, there are over 20 different spelling variations! Both spellings, Hanukkah and Chanukah are considered correct and are the most widely chosen ones. Teaching the story of Hanukkah to kids and sharing fun holiday facts helps to foster a sense of Jewish identity in children.
Hanukkah is often celebrated in December but can sometimes begin as early as November, like this year in 2021. It is a time that commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, which took place during the second century B.C. According to stories, the Maccabees (a small army of Jewish people) revolted against their oppressors and took back their Temple.
The miracle that Jewish people around the world still observe and remember today is the symbolic lighting of the menorah. Inside the Temple, one of the most important rituals was to keep the menorah lit. However, there seemed to be only enough oil for one day. Miraculously, the flame burned bright for 8 whole days until a new supply was found. This is when the miracle of Hanukkah began.
There are many great ways to teach Hanukkah to children, which will help them to remember the special story that happened so long ago. Here are some fun Hanukkah activities for elementary students that will bring the story to life and can be done at home or in school:
Hanukkah Reader’s Theater – Pick out your favorite Hanukkah-themed books and discover the miracle of Hanukkah together in the reader’s theater style. This is a great opportunity to dress up, really go back in time, and experience the miracle that happened so long ago.
Interactive Menorah Stories – Have children make menorahs or headpieces from construction paper and entertain the family with the story of the Hanukkah menorah around the table.
Gift Giving- Encourage the giving of small gifts by having each member of the family create a Hanukkah gift holder. This is a great way to teach the importance of giving.
Hanukkah Charades – This is a variation of a game where each participant puts a paper plate on top of his/her head and the other player uses a washable marker to draw an object like a Hanukkah menorah. They give some physical examples of what the drawing could be and the player with the plate on his head must guess.
Photography Menorahs – Create a menorah-shaped photo gallery on your wall with painter’s tape and nine vertical pictures as candle holders. Build your menorah with your favorite family photos.
Hanukkah is a special time to celebrate with your loved ones and remember that miracles do come true! At Beth Emet School Jewish life is taught and experienced in Hebrew & Judaic Studies through holiday observances, Israel education, Torah studies, life cycle events, and customs, as well as prayers. It is this connection between our Jewish heritage and our daily activities in school that helps foster a sense of Jewish identity in our students.