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HANUKKAH Hanukkah is a happy midwinter festival celebrated by the Jewish people. It is celebrated for eight days and is also known as “The Festival of Lights.” Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians.

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Hanukkah is a happy midwinter festival celebrated by the Jewish people.

It is celebrated for eight days and is also known as “The Festival of Lights.”

Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians.


Over 2000 years ago in 165 B.C. the Jews of Palestine fought a war against the Syrians. The Jewish leader was Judas Maccabeus and the Greek leader was King Antiochus. The Jews had been denied their religious freedom while they were under the Syrian-Greek rule.

The Jewish Maccabees defeated the Syrians and returned to their temple that had been occupied and ransacked. They found only enough sacred oil to light the holy Menorah, or lamp, for one day. But by a miracle, the lamp continued to burn for eight days.


Today, Jewish families celebrate this event by lighting a special candelabra called a menorah. The holiday begins the first day by lighting the first candle at sundown on the 24th of Kislev, a Jewish month. A “servant” candle called Shammash is also lighted each night and is used to light the other candles. Each evening another candle is burned until all eight candles are burning together. At this time, family members say blessings of thanks to God.


After lighting the Menorah, games are played and gifts exchanged by the family. Children especially like the holiday of Hanukkah. They play an ancient game using a four sided top known as a dreidel. The Hebrew letters N-miracle, G-great, H-happened, and S-there (Israel) are written on the sides of the top and means “a great miracle happened.” These letters stand for Nun (nothing), Gimel (all), Hay (half), and Shin (put in). Long ago, Jewish people were forbidden to come together and pray. In order to practice their religion they pretended to play games with this little top.


How To Play The Dreidel Game

Give each player ten dried beans, chocolate coins, peppermint candies, or plastic chips to serve as Hanukkah gelt (money), and place an empty bowl in the center of the table. Before each turn, every player must put a bean in the bowl. The players take turn spinning the top. If the letter “N” turns up the player wins no beans; if “G” turns up he wins all the beans in the bowl; if “H” turns up he wins half the beans in the bowl and if “S” turns up he must put one bean in the bowl. The game continues until one player has won all the gelt.

Try playing a virtual game by clicking on the web address below.


The traditional holiday food served for Hanukkah is “latkes”, or potato pancakes.

Potato LatkesIngredients: 5-6 medium white potatoes, grated 1 medium yellow onion, grated 2 eggs, beaten 1/2 tsp pepper 1/2 tsp salt 3 Tbs breadcrumbs or crushed crackers 1/4 cup oil for frying Directions: Peel and grate potatoes. Put in strainer to drain away liquid. Peel onion. Grate into large bowl. Add beaten eggs, spices, and crumbs to onions. Beat well. Add grated and strained potatoes and mix. Set frying pan at medium heat. Add oil. When oil heats, add one large tablespoon of batter for each pancake.  Cook 4-5 minutes on one side, flip, and cook another 4 minutes. Serve hot with a dish of cold applesauce.


Links to other Hanukkah games for you to enjoy.

Jigsaw game

Tic-Tac-Toe game

Books about Hanukkah:

A Picture Book of Hanukkah by David A. Adler

The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel

The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco

One Candle by Eve Bunting