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December 1, 2015

Hanukkah in the Early Childhood Classroom

By Allie Magnuson
Grades PreK–K, 1–2

    In our school, we always celebrate Christmas. Sometimes we celebrate Christmas around the world, but we don't often learn about other winter holidays, apart from Christmas, for their own sake. We might know what other cultures celebrate, but rarely do we know why.

    For a change, try teaching and participating in the traditions of Hanukkah. Scholastic has a lovely interactive unit that explains various symbols and celebrations of the three major winter holidays including Hanukkah. Because the Hebrew calendar is different, Hanukkah always starts on a different date, anytime from late November to early January. This year (2015), Hanukkah will take place on December 6 through the 14.

    Tip: Visit the Shalom Sesame Web site to learn about Hanukkah with Sesame Street!

    About Hanukkah

    Hanukkah (which means "dedication" in Hebrew) is a celebration of two miracles that took place over 2,000 years ago:

    • The miracle of a small Jewish army defeating a king who made them worship Greek gods; and

    • The miracle of what happened when they rededicated their temple to their own god. They lit an oil lamp, which was supposed to burn all the time. But there was only enough oil to last one day, and it would take eight days to make new oil. Miraculously, the oil burned for all eight days.

    This is why Jewish people call Hanukkah "The Festival of Lights" and celebrate for eight days and nights. 

    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "Chanukah with Veronica Monica." It explains the story in an easy-to-understand way.

    Hanukkah Traditions

    Lighting a Menorah

    A Hanukkah menorah (hanukiah) is a special candle holder that has a place for eight candles (plus one to use as a light, and to light the other candles) or eight cups of oil (plus one for a light).

    Since Hanukkah commemorates "the miracle of the oil," the preferred way to light a menorah is with olive oil. It is also customary during Hanukkah to make foods fried in oil, especially potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts.

    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "Awesome Oil" to see a menorah being lit with oil.

    Most people nowadays use candles to light their menorahs. Each night of Hanukkah, candles are placed in the menorah from right to left (one for the first night, two for the second, etc.), and then lit from left to right. On the last night, all the candles are lit.

    Menorahs are placed in doorways and windows so people can see them from the outside. 

     

    Menorah Craft

    Hanukkah Menorah CraftHanukkah Menorah Craft

    Materials:

    • Nine unwrapped crayons (soak the crayons in warm water, and the wrappers will come right off)

    • Two copies of a menorah shape

    • A sheet of clear overlay film

    • A piece of construction paper with a square cut 8 1/2" x 7" in the middle

    • Some paper curtains

     

    Instructions:

    1. Attach the paper and curtains to the clear film, face-down, with a glue stick.

    2. Color the menorahs and glue them back-to-back.

    3. Attach the single menorah piece and eight crayons to the back of the clear film with glue dots. Place the ninth crayon higher than the rest and attach with a tiny Velcro dot. You will see all the dots, but at least they're small. You now have a menorah in a window!

    4. Remove the crayons (except for the ninth one) and pretend it's the first night of Hanukkah. Add one candle to the far right, then "light" it with the helper candle by drawing a flame above it. Then rub it off with a tissue and pretend it's the second night. Keep going until the eighth night, when all the candles are lit.

    Gift Giving

    Many Jewish children receive a gift each night of Hanukkah as a reward for studying the Torah (the Jewish bible). Others receive a gift for themselves for four nights, and a gift to give someone else the other four nights. Still others receive money (gelt) to give to charity.

    Charity (tzedakah) is important to Jewish people. Unlike the American concept of charity, which is to give to people in need as an act of compassion, Jewish people consider giving to people in need a duty. It is simply the right thing to do.

    Whichever way they celebrate, the most important part of Hanukkah for Jewish children is family.

    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "The Family Song" to hear a song about family in English and Hebrew!

    Tzedakah Craft

    Tzedakah Box

    Materials:

    Instructions:

    1. Either remove the wrapper from the container and leave it as it is (mine just happened to be blue and silver!) or decorate it.

    2. Cut out the word Tzedakah in Hebrew and English and affix them to the container.

    3. Have students take their containers home and collect money for their favorite charity.

    Playing Dreidel

    "Dreidel" is the Yiddish word for "spinning top" — and that's what the game is played with. A dreidel has four sides, with one Hebrew letter on each side: nun, gimel, hay, and shin.

    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "Baby Bear Plays Dreidel" to watch it being played.

     

    Dreidel Game

     

    Dreidel Materials and Rules

     

    Materials:

    • Dreidel

    • Gelt (chocolate money)

    Instructions:

    Players put some gelt into a central pot and agree on a number of rounds to play. Then they take turns spinning the dreidel:

    • If it lands on "nun," they get nothing

    • If it lands on "gimel," they get everything in the pot

    • If it lands on "hay," they get half the pot

    • If it lands on "shin," they have to share by adding to the pot

    Once your students get the hang of it, they can have a dreidel spinoff. Each student can have their own mini-dreidel (usually less than a dollar each at Party City). Have them get into pairs and see whose dreidel spins the longest, with each winner competing against another winner until only two remain. Whoever wins the final round is the dreidel spinning champion!

    Conclusion

    Hopefully your students will enjoy learning about a holiday other than Christmas! Here are some Hanukkah vocabulary words they can learn:

    Hanukkah Vocabulary


    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "Chanukah Celebration" to see a family celebrate the holiday by eating, singing, dancing, lighting the menorah, and playing Dreidel.

    Shalom!

    No matter which holiday you celebrate, a little savings is always a treat. Please use the promo code in the coupon below and enjoy!

    In our school, we always celebrate Christmas. Sometimes we celebrate Christmas around the world, but we don't often learn about other winter holidays, apart from Christmas, for their own sake. We might know what other cultures celebrate, but rarely do we know why.

    For a change, try teaching and participating in the traditions of Hanukkah. Scholastic has a lovely interactive unit that explains various symbols and celebrations of the three major winter holidays including Hanukkah. Because the Hebrew calendar is different, Hanukkah always starts on a different date, anytime from late November to early January. This year (2015), Hanukkah will take place on December 6 through the 14.

    Tip: Visit the Shalom Sesame Web site to learn about Hanukkah with Sesame Street!

    About Hanukkah

    Hanukkah (which means "dedication" in Hebrew) is a celebration of two miracles that took place over 2,000 years ago:

    • The miracle of a small Jewish army defeating a king who made them worship Greek gods; and

    • The miracle of what happened when they rededicated their temple to their own god. They lit an oil lamp, which was supposed to burn all the time. But there was only enough oil to last one day, and it would take eight days to make new oil. Miraculously, the oil burned for all eight days.

    This is why Jewish people call Hanukkah "The Festival of Lights" and celebrate for eight days and nights. 

    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "Chanukah with Veronica Monica." It explains the story in an easy-to-understand way.

    Hanukkah Traditions

    Lighting a Menorah

    A Hanukkah menorah (hanukiah) is a special candle holder that has a place for eight candles (plus one to use as a light, and to light the other candles) or eight cups of oil (plus one for a light).

    Since Hanukkah commemorates "the miracle of the oil," the preferred way to light a menorah is with olive oil. It is also customary during Hanukkah to make foods fried in oil, especially potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts.

    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "Awesome Oil" to see a menorah being lit with oil.

    Most people nowadays use candles to light their menorahs. Each night of Hanukkah, candles are placed in the menorah from right to left (one for the first night, two for the second, etc.), and then lit from left to right. On the last night, all the candles are lit.

    Menorahs are placed in doorways and windows so people can see them from the outside. 

     

    Menorah Craft

    Hanukkah Menorah CraftHanukkah Menorah Craft

    Materials:

    • Nine unwrapped crayons (soak the crayons in warm water, and the wrappers will come right off)

    • Two copies of a menorah shape

    • A sheet of clear overlay film

    • A piece of construction paper with a square cut 8 1/2" x 7" in the middle

    • Some paper curtains

     

    Instructions:

    1. Attach the paper and curtains to the clear film, face-down, with a glue stick.

    2. Color the menorahs and glue them back-to-back.

    3. Attach the single menorah piece and eight crayons to the back of the clear film with glue dots. Place the ninth crayon higher than the rest and attach with a tiny Velcro dot. You will see all the dots, but at least they're small. You now have a menorah in a window!

    4. Remove the crayons (except for the ninth one) and pretend it's the first night of Hanukkah. Add one candle to the far right, then "light" it with the helper candle by drawing a flame above it. Then rub it off with a tissue and pretend it's the second night. Keep going until the eighth night, when all the candles are lit.

    Gift Giving

    Many Jewish children receive a gift each night of Hanukkah as a reward for studying the Torah (the Jewish bible). Others receive a gift for themselves for four nights, and a gift to give someone else the other four nights. Still others receive money (gelt) to give to charity.

    Charity (tzedakah) is important to Jewish people. Unlike the American concept of charity, which is to give to people in need as an act of compassion, Jewish people consider giving to people in need a duty. It is simply the right thing to do.

    Whichever way they celebrate, the most important part of Hanukkah for Jewish children is family.

    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "The Family Song" to hear a song about family in English and Hebrew!

    Tzedakah Craft

    Tzedakah Box

    Materials:

    Instructions:

    1. Either remove the wrapper from the container and leave it as it is (mine just happened to be blue and silver!) or decorate it.

    2. Cut out the word Tzedakah in Hebrew and English and affix them to the container.

    3. Have students take their containers home and collect money for their favorite charity.

    Playing Dreidel

    "Dreidel" is the Yiddish word for "spinning top" — and that's what the game is played with. A dreidel has four sides, with one Hebrew letter on each side: nun, gimel, hay, and shin.

    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "Baby Bear Plays Dreidel" to watch it being played.

     

    Dreidel Game

     

    Dreidel Materials and Rules

     

    Materials:

    • Dreidel

    • Gelt (chocolate money)

    Instructions:

    Players put some gelt into a central pot and agree on a number of rounds to play. Then they take turns spinning the dreidel:

    • If it lands on "nun," they get nothing

    • If it lands on "gimel," they get everything in the pot

    • If it lands on "hay," they get half the pot

    • If it lands on "shin," they have to share by adding to the pot

    Once your students get the hang of it, they can have a dreidel spinoff. Each student can have their own mini-dreidel (usually less than a dollar each at Party City). Have them get into pairs and see whose dreidel spins the longest, with each winner competing against another winner until only two remain. Whoever wins the final round is the dreidel spinning champion!

    Conclusion

    Hopefully your students will enjoy learning about a holiday other than Christmas! Here are some Hanukkah vocabulary words they can learn:

    Hanukkah Vocabulary


    Tip: Watch the Shalom Sesame video "Chanukah Celebration" to see a family celebrate the holiday by eating, singing, dancing, lighting the menorah, and playing Dreidel.

    Shalom!

    No matter which holiday you celebrate, a little savings is always a treat. Please use the promo code in the coupon below and enjoy!

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