Hanukkah is a Jewish festival marked by celebrations and traditional foods. The eight-day festival starts on the 25th day of the Kislev month of the Hebrew calendar, which generally falls in November or December.
Read on as we tell you some fascinating facts about this Jewish festival of lights and highlight the importance of Hanukkah for kids. Share the story of Hanukkah with your children and explain to them 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Singing hymns: Jewish hymns and songs that have been composed specially for Hanukkah are sung every night after lighting the menorah.
- 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.
- 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
- Hanukkah means “dedication” and celebrates the triumph of the Maccabees over the Greeks.
- The festival lasts for eight nights because it honors the burning of the holy light for eight nights.
- Food served at Hanukkah celebrations is fried to symbolize the miracle oil that kept the holy light burning for eight nights.
- The Grand Army Plaza in New York has a 32ft high menorah weighing 4,000lb. It is reportedly the largest menorah in the world.
- Harry Truman was the first US president to celebrate this Jewish festival at the White House.
- More than 24 million filled donuts or sufganiyot are consumed in Israel during the eight days of Hanukkah each year.
- 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.
Hanukkah is an important festival that is celebrated by Jews across the globe. Jewish children look forward to the eight days and nights of festivities. Teach your children about the history of the Jews and the second temple in Jerusalem with the story and fascinating facts given in this post.
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