Teacher Guide To Hanukkah
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday based around a tradition that is also called the Festival of Lights. Lasting for eight days, Hanukkah revolves around the lighting of a special candle holder called a Menorah that holds nine candles. Hanukkah is of great importance to the Jewish community because it is in remembrance of the events surrounding the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem during the second century BC.
Hanukkah means "to dedicate" in Hebrew and when the Jewish people rededicated the Temple of Jerusalem they also regained control of Jerusalem, a holy site for the Jewish religion. The eight day holiday starts at anytime during the Hebrew month of Kislev, which falls around the same time as the months of November and December, depending on the geographical location of the celebration. This is because the Jewish tradition follows a different calendar, the Hebrew calendar, while most other parts of society such as in the United States follows the Gregorian calendar.
The holiday of Hanukkah is symbolized by the exchanging of gifts, eating fried foods, and by lighting the Menorah. The small tokens, called gilt, which is small amounts of coins, are given to each person. Foods fried or baked in olive oil are traditionally served in honor of the olive oil that miraculously burned on the first Hanukkah. Special potato cakes called latkes in the Yiddish language are popular to serve for Hanukkah as well as fried doughnuts filled with jelly and cheese products., These traditional foods are an important part of Hanukkah because of the cooking with oil is representative of the olive oil that was used in the first Menorah.
The Menorah that was lit during the very first celebration did not have enough olive oil to keep the candles burning until the Jewish people finished rededicating the Temple of Jerusalem. However by a miracle, the Menorah burned for eight days, giving the Jewish people enough light to finish the rededication ceremony. So for the celebration of Hanukkah, Jewish people have a Menorah and they will light one candle each night for the eight day celebration. Three different blessings are recited during the lighting ceremonies, and it is acceptable to use a Menorah that is filled with electric lights or lamps instead of candles.
Many Jewish people living in the United States will celebrate Hanukkah and not Christmas, because of the different religious beliefs associated with each holiday tradition. However, since many Jewish school children may feel left out from their school friends since they do not celebrate Christmas and do not participate in traditions of Christmas, Jewish families will often make Hanukkah more like Christmas by giving more gifts to them than just the gelt. Also Jewish children play traditional Hanukkah games with toys such as the Dreidel. This is a four-sided spinning top that is painted with Hebrew characters on the four sides that mean Nes Gadol Haya Sham in Hebrew, translated as "a great miracle happened there." A popular song that is sang during Hanukkah is called "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel."
Related Teacher Resources That Are Worth A Look:
- Celebration Adjectives
- Hanukkah Vocabulary List and Definitions
- Menorah Adjectives Worksheet
- Who Can Retell