Hanukkah For Kids: What It Is, Facts And Story Behind It

Teach your children about the importance of Hanukkah and why it is celebrated.

Written by Harshita Makvana facebook_iconinsta_icon Experience: 7 years
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Hanukkah, a Jewish festival, is celebrated with traditional foods and lights. Teach your children about its importance through some fun facts about Hanukkah for kids. According to the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah is an eight-day long celebration that begins on the 25th day of the Kislev month. It typically occurs in either November or December.

In this post, we have put together some fascinating facts about the festival to help you teach your children about Hanukkah and how it is celebrated.

What Is Hanukkah, Who Celebrates It, And How Is It Celebrated?

Hanukkah is observed by Jewish people across the globe. This Jewish festival commemorates an important battle fought between the Jews and Greeks over 2,000 years ago when Greeks had banned all the rituals performed by Jews and a miracle that happened at the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

It marks a fun time for children as they celebrate this winter holiday with their family and friends. Here are some rituals that make it a special occasion for kids.

  1. Playing dreidel: It is a popular game at Hanukkah parties. The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet engraved on each side. Each participant is given gelts to bet – the gelts can be nuts, gold-wrapped chocolates, or real coins. Based on which side the dreidel lands, the winner gets the pot. Children even sing dreidel songs as they enjoy the game.
  2. Lighting the menorah: The menorah is a beautifully designed candelabrum with nine candles. On each night of the festival, one candle is added to the candelabrum and lit, and the ninth candle, called shamash (helper), is used to light the other candles.
  3. Singing hymns: Jewish hymns and songs that have been composed specially for Hanukkah are sung every night after lighting the menorah.
  4. Enjoying feast: Special traditional foods are prepared during Hanukkah. These foods include fritters, potato latkes, and jelly doughnuts. All these foods are generally prepared in olive oil.
  5. Receiving gifts: Children receive money and gifts from elders as a part of the Hanukkah celebrations. Some families exchange small presents on each night of Hanukkah.

Story Of Hanukkah For Kids

Hanukkah is a festival that commemorates the struggle of the Jews who fought the battle against the Greeks to restore the Jerusalem temple. Here is the real story of Hanukkah that explains the facts in a concise way.

A long time ago, the Syrian king Antiochus ruled Judea. He stressed that Jews must not worship Yahweh and should instead worship the Greek gods. The Jews refused and decided to stand against this decision.

Judah Maccabee, along with his four brothers, started a revolt against the Greeks and soon formed an army of his own. The Jews battled the Syrian king for three years to get control over the Temple of Jerusalem and were eventually victorious.

After getting control over the temple, they tried to restore all the Jewish symbols and found that the menorah lamp was missing.

They built a new menorah lamp. However, they had oil that would last just for a night, and it would take eight days and nights to find oil for the lamp. To their surprise, a miracle happened, and the oil lasted for eight nights. Finally, on the 25th day of Kislev, the restoration work was completed, and since then, the Jews celebrate the Hanukkah for eight days, starting from the 25th day of Kislev, every year.

Fascinating Facts About Hanukkah

  1. Hanukkah means “dedication” and celebrates the triumph of the Maccabees over the Greeks.
  2. The festival lasts for eight nights because it honors the burning of the holy light for eight nights.
  3. Food served at Hanukkah celebrations is fried to symbolize the miracle oil that kept the holy light burning for eight nights.
  4. The Grand Army Plaza in New York has a 32ft high menorah weighing 4,000lb. It is reportedly the largest menorah in the world.
  5. Harry Truman was the first US president to celebrate this Jewish festival at the White House.
  6. More than 24 million filled donuts or sufganiyot are consumed in Israel during the eight days of Hanukkah each year.
  7. Hanukkah is also spelled in more than ten different ways, as it is translated from Hebrew, and there are no correct ways to translate it directly into English.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do we give gifts on Hanukkah?

The contemporary tradition of giving gifts is believed to have roots in the Christmas tradition of gift-giving to express love and happiness. Gifts also symbolize the sacrifices presented to God at the temple altar that the Jews reclaimed from the Greeks (1).

2. How do I wish someone celebrating Hanukkah?

If you would like to greet someone celebrating Hanukkah, the simplest greeting would be “Chag Sameach,” pronounced as “haag sum-ey-ah,” which means “ happy holidays!”

Hanukkah stands for dedication and is an important festival that Jews celebrate in memory of their battle with the Greeks to restore the Jerusalem temple. It is a special occasion for children who play dreidel, light the menorah, and sing hymns besides receiving gifts and enjoying delicacies. These interesting facts about Hanukkah for kids can teach them the fascinating story behind the eight-day festivities. This post has also enlisted a wide range of intriguing information, from the relationship between the food served and the miracle oil to the first US president to celebrate Hanukkah at the White House.

Key Pointers

  • The festival of Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Kislev month, typically in November or December.
  • The festival lasts for eight nights, signifying the burning of the holy light for eight consecutive nights.
  • Israelites consume more than 24 million filled donuts or sufganiyot each year during Hanukkah.

References

  1. The History of Hanukkah Gifts: Is This Custom Really a Jewish One?
    https://reformjudaism.org/history-hanukkah-gifts-custom-really-jewish-one
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Harshita is a graduate in commerce and holds a PG Diploma in Patent and Copyrights Law from NALSAR University. She has also pursued CA and has more than three years of internship experience in auditing. Her love for travelling has taken her to various parts of the world, and writing the travelogues was what brought out her love for content writing.

Read full bio of Harshita Makvana
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