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Social Studies, Art, Mediums, Techniques

Grade 1- 3


Students will learn about the history of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.


Background Information
The Jewish festival of Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is also called the Festival of Lights. It lasts for eight days and usually occurs in December, although in some years it may start in November. It commemorates not only the triumph of the Maccabees over the great army of the Syrian king, Antiochus IV, in 165 B.C., but also the universal message that all people have the right to be free.
After the Jews won their battle, they went to their temple and found that the Syrians had brought in statues of their own gods. The eternal light had been allowed to go out. The Jews rekindled the light, but they had only enough oil to keep it burning for one day, and it would take eight days for a messenger to get more oil. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil kept burning for eight days, long enough for the messenger to return with more. Jews use a candleholder called the menorah to symbolize this miracle. It holds nine candles. One, the shammash, is used to light the others. They stand for the eight days that the oil kept burning.
Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting the candles of the menorah, playing games of chance with a spinning top called a dreidel, and eating special holiday foods such as potato pancakes called latkes. Children often receive a gift on each night of Hanukkah in addition to Hanukkah gelt (money). This gelt sometimes consists of chocolate wrapped in gold foil to look like money.
Give a Hanukkah party in your classroom. This can be very simple or very festive, but it should include at least one traditional food, some gelt, a chance to play the dreidel game, and the singing of some Hanukkah songs. You can give one yourself with the help of a Jewish delicatessen. Gelt can be purchased everywhere in its little net bags. Directions for playing the dreidel game can be found below. Read Hannukah stories. Have children make Hanukkah hats to wear for the party. Buy inexpensive plastic dreidels for your students or have each student make his or her own.
Beautiful Hanukkah cards can be made easily. Fold blue paper into a card shape. Lay the cut-out shape of a candle on the front of the card. Lightly sponge thin white tempera paint over the entire front. Carefully lift away the candle. Allow to dry and write a message inside.
Let children make a menorah using frosting and marshmallows. Give each child a piece of tagboard 11 x 4 inches (28 cm x 10 cm), ten marshmallows, and nine candles. Have the children spread some white frosting on the bottom of each marshmallow and then put them onto the tagboard. With the frosting, "glue" a second marshmallow on top of the middle marshmallow to create the shammash or servant.' Poke birthday candles into each marshmallow to create a menorah.
See the activity sheets for three other fun Hanukkah activities: drawing a menorah, making a Star of David, and making a hanging dreidel
Directions for the Dreidel Game
Cut out the dreidel. Make holes as shown below. Fold along the inside lines to make a box. Fold the tabs inward. Use glue or tape to hold the dreidel together. Push a pencil or pen through the holes. Spin the dreidel and begin play.
To Play the Game
The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top. The letters written on the side of the dreidel are Hebrew for A Great Miracle Happened There. Each symbol represents a different instruction for the game. To play, give each person a designated number of markers (gelt, candy, nuts, etc.) Each player puts one marker in the center, or kitty, each time the dreidel is spun. Players take turns spinning the dreidel.
If the dreidel lands on:


  • scissors
  • glue or tape
  • pencils or a hole punch
  • string or yarn
  • construction paper
  • copies of the dreidel pattern
  • copies of the three activity sheets

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