Hanukkah Activities for Kids

Hanukkah is about more than lighting candles and getting presents. It’s about honoring and celebrating the miracle of Judah Maccabee and the revolt that led to the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. But how do you explain that to kids without taking all the fun out of Hanukkah? Here are three fun things you can do with your kids that will also teach them about the meaning of this sacred festival of lights.

Make Latkes

Latkes taste great and they’re symbolic. The oil used to cook them is a reminder of the miracle of the thimble full of oil lasting eight days. Make latkes with your kids using the recipe below. It’s a great way to have fun together and teach them about Hanukkah.


5 big potatoes
3 eggs
1/3 cup of flour
1 teaspoon salt
oil for frying


Grind the potatoes.
Add eggs, flour and salt.
Mix well.
Warm up oil in frying pan.
Pour batter onto the oil in spoonfuls.
Let fry for about five minutes on medium fire.
Turn over and let fry for another three minutes.
Take out your latkes and lay them on paper towel to cool.

Make a Menorah

Kids love crafts. This simple project is fun and gives you a great opportunity to explain all about the menorah and its significance. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 piece of wood, 12 inches long x 1 inch wide and ½ an inch high.
  • A second piece of wood, 1 inch long x 1 inch wide and ½ an inch high.
  • Glue
  • Colored paint and/or glitter
  • 9 miniature cupcake holders
  • Hanukkah candles

Here’s what to do:

  1. Pain both pieces of wood, or decorate them with glitter, or do both. Let then dry.
  2. Glue the small piece of wood on the left corner of the big piece of wood.
  3. Put eight dabs of glue on the long piece of wood and put a cupcake holder on each one. Let it dry.
  4. Glue the ninth cupcake holder onto the small piece of wood and let it dry.

Place the candle in each cupcake holder and, voilà, your own menorah.

Take a Trip to the Library

Your local library is a great resource for finding fun ways to teach your kids about Hanukkah. You’re sure to find books for kids of all ages that explain the meaning of Hanukkah, and many of them have lyrics to songs that you and your kids can sing together.

Top 5 Hanukkah TV Moments

When it comes to holiday TV specials, shows about Hanukah aren’t the first thing that spring to mind. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some truly classic TV moments about the festival of lights. Here’s our list of the top five.

A Colbert Christmas

Sure, it’s technically a Christmas special. But then Jon Stewart stops by to educate his friend Stephen about the magic of Hanukkah. The ensuing duet is filled with a brilliant mix of self-deprecation on Stewart’s part and over-the-top arrogance and ignorance from Colbert. Not to be missed.

Friends: The Holiday Armadillo

Who could forget this classic? Ross wants to get his son, Ben, excited about Hanukkah. He tries to dress up as Santa, thinking that if Santa explains what Hanukkah is, Ben will get as excited for it as he does for Christmas. Only problem is Ross can’t find a Santa costume so close to Christmas. The only costume he can find is an armadillo. His friend, Chandler, however, is able to get a Santa outfit. What happens when Chandler shows up dressed as Santa, and potentially upstages Ross, is as touching as it is funny.

The O.C.: The Best Chrismukkah Ever

Determined to merge his Jewish and Christian heritage and help Ryan and his family have the holiday party of a lifetime, Seth invents the bi-religious holiday of Chrismukkah. The episode was hit and Chrismukkah became an annual tradition for the show.

Saturday Night Live: Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song

Not wanting to be left out at Christmas time, Adam Sandler writes a song about the eight crazy nights of Hanukkah and all the “Jews in showbiz.” Get out your yarmulke and celebrate Hanukkah with hilarious song.

Saturday Night Live: Hanukkah Harry Saves Christmas

It might seem like a bit much to include two Saturday Night Live sketches in one list, but for a show that’s been running for 30 years, you make exceptions. Though not as famous as Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song, Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Hanukkah Harry saving Christmas is madcap genius. On Moishe, on Hershel, on Shlomo!





Hanukkah video celebrations

Hanukkah With Veronica Monica – The folks at Sesame Street are great at creating content that is fun, but also informative. In this clip, reporter Veronica Monica talks about the history of Hanukkah. The animation is reminiscent of old-school cartoons from the 1960s.

How to play the Dreidel Game - Here’s a light-hearted informative video about how the basic rules of the Dreidel Game, starring Jane, who helps explain the meaning of the different sides of the Dreidel.

How to light the Menorah - Lighting the Menorah during Hanukkah is a long-standing tradition in Jewish homes. When lighting the Menora, there are several ceremonial steps to observe. Russ Handler explains the details.

How to Celebrate Hanukkah - Hanukkah commemorates the battle to rededicate the Temple of Jerusalem and the miracle in which, according to tradition, a tiny bit of oil burned for eight days. Here’s how to celebrate this Jewish holiday.

Adam Sandler – Hanukkah song on Saturday Night Live - Here’s a classic clip of comedian Adam Sandler having some fun with his song about celebrity and Hanukkah traditions and celebrations. You can see Sandler nearly cracking up during the bit.

Traditional holiday meals

If you’re fighting the battle of the bulge, the holidays can be a challenge since so much of the celebration the holidays revolves around food. You may as well embrace it. Just make your New Year’s Resolution early to hit the gym and try to get back down to fighting weight. In the meantime, here are some of the top traditional meals.

For Thanksgiving, a honey-glazed ham with scalloped potatoes is often a popular choice. Turkey is the default meal in America and in recent years, fried turkey has increased in popularity. That said frying a turkey can be a tricky, if not dangerous proposition and proper safety precautions should be taken to minimize the risk of fire.

If the main course wasn’t enough at Thanksgiving, the dinner table is usually loaded up with filling sides such as stuffing, cranberry sauce, butternut squash and plum pudding. Some vegetables are always good to throw into the mix; often times a veggie platter with dip will be served as an appetizer.

For Christmas, St. Nick is a fan of the old-school snack: a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. Christmas main meals are similar to Thanksgiving, with either ham or turkey served.  Beverages such as eggnog and mulled cider are often served at Christmastime. And warming up with a cup of hot chocolate is always good if there’s a chill in the air. Christmas desserts include mince pie, fruit cake and candy canes.

Sufganiyot are one of the most popular foods during Hanukkah, as are latkes (potato pancakes). Cheese is another food often served during Hanukkah. You’ll often see cheese dips (in handmade round challah bread bowls) and cheddar gelt wafers out on the dinner table. And for dessert, there is always room for just a little more cheese in the form of cheesecake.

Kwanzaa culminates in a feast on the last day of the holiday, December 31st. Traditional Kwanzaa meals include rich and hearty stews, chicken dishes, collard greens, black-eyed peas, squash and okra.

Top 10 gifts the man in your life will love

Buying gifts for the man in your life should really be a no-brainer. Men are predictable creatures and they tend to prefer material goods over experiences (e.g., an HDTV versus a vacation getaway). Here are 10 holiday gift ideas that should please most if not all of the guys on your gift-giving list this year.

1) Sports gear of his favorite team – Guys just love sports. They love watching sports on TV. They love listening to sports talk radio. They love talking sports with their buddies. They even love to wear sports gear. Plunking down for an authentic jersey can set you back a bill, but it will make your man very happy.

2) Sporting event tickets – If you really want to make your man’s day, gift him with a pair of sporting event tickets! If you’re not into professional sports, you can graciously suggest he take his best bro to the game. That way you can stay home and enjoy a glass of wine and have a night all to yourself.

3) Tablet – Chances are your guy will go gaga if you give him a tablet. While the iPad is the top choice, there are some cheaper alternatives out there, such as the newly-released Kindle Fire. Whatever tablet you get, just know you run the risk that he will begin to pay more attention to the gadget and less attention to you.

4) A new HDTV set – He’s probably already got an HDTV. But he doesn’t have the latest and greatest HDTV. If you give him the gift of television this holiday season, consider throwing in installation as well, so he doesn’t have to wrack his brain with frustration trying to put the new set on the wall.

5) Satellite radio – This is a great gift for music fans as well as those who spend a lot of time commuting. Music channels on Sirius are commercial-free, which is great for when you’re on the road. And you can now listen to satellite radio online and on mobile devices, which means it’s pretty much always available.

6) Beer – The way to win a man’s heart is to buy him beer. Lots of it. You can get a party ball of Budweiser or you can be really cool and score a case of his favorite craft beer or mix and match a bunch of limited edition and seasonal brews. Book a tour at his favorite brewery and he’ll be forever in your debt.

7) Premium liquor – If your man is not a fan of beer, chances are he probably would enjoy a bottle of adult spirits. You know his tastes the best, but don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from your local shop on what would make a great gift.

8) Magazine subscriptions – It’s the gift that keeps giving year round. Popular titles your man might enjoy include ESPN, Rolling Stone, Spin, Wired, Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair.

9) Shaving kit – Unless the man in your life is growing a weird beard, he will need shaving supplies. A really nice shaving kit is a great gift for staying groomed year round and day in and day out.

10) Nice clothes – Look through his closet. When’s the last time he bought any new clothes for himself? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Get him some new shirts, a nice pair of shoes or some trousers.  He may not think it’s a great gift at first, but when he gets compliments on his good looks, he’ll be thinking of you.

Bonus gift idea: Underwear – See #10. When’s the last time your man bought himself some new underwear? Stay away from the novelty underwear and get him some nice skivvies. Chances are he’ll want to show them off for you at some point. Happy holidays!

Recipes: Celebrating Hanukkah

The celebration of Hanukkah is accompanied by foods which are rich in both tradition and flavor. The customary cuisine often involves foods that are fried in oil, symbolizing the miracle of the small supply of oil that kept the flame for the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem alight for eight days.

Sufganiyot are one of the most popular foods during Hanukkah. The classic recipe calls for these delicious doughnuts to be filled with jelly or custard and dusted with confectioner’s sugar while contemporary versions of the recipe call for chocolate or custard fillings. If the idea of frying your own sufganiyot at home seems a bit intimidating, follow this helpful 9-step lesson from the folks at epicurious. Even though sufganiyot are the doughy darlings of Hanukkah, alternatives such as zalabia, a deep fried batter served with sugar syrup, or apple cider doughnuts make for sweet substitutions.

Another fried favorite is the latke. While the traditional potato pancake recipe remains a mainstay, you may want to consider modern updates such as Sweet Potato Latkes or Carrot Scallion Latkes. The kosher / vegetarian blog Cafe Liz offers several takes on the classic dish, including sweet Pear Sage Latkes, spicy Mushroom Ginger Latkes and savory Zucchini Dill Latkes.

Cheese is another traditional menu item during Hanukkah. It is served to commemorate Judith, whose brave assassination of the Assyrian general Holofernes was the catalyst that aided the Jews in their defeat of the Assyrians.

When selecting a dessert, you simply can’t go wrong with a cheesecake! Instead of a New York style offering, consider a European-style cheesecake which features a delectable farmer-cheese filling.

A Hanukkah cheese dip is another guaranteed crowd pleaser. If you really want to wow your guests, try serving it in a handmade round challah bread bowl.

Cheddar gelt wafers are a tasteful homage to the traditional giving of Hanukkah gelt, which is typically chocolate money wrapped in gold foil. For those of you who prefer sweeter fare, prepare some chocolate dipped apricot gelt, which makes for a healthy & tasty alternative. Of course, if you simply must have chocolate, we suggest homemade chocolate truffle gelt as a truly memorable and decadent reward for your Hanukkah guests.

Hanukkah Traditions

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, is an eight day celebration which starts on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. While Hanukkah is not the most significant of Jewish holidays, it is a time of meaningful traditions.

The Lighting of the Hanukkah Candles - The reason for the Hanukkah lights is to remind others of the holiday’s miracle – when the small quantity of oil kept alight the flame for the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem for eight days. Candles are placed in a candelabra, often referred to as a menorah, and lit ceremonially every evening for eight days. There is one candle for each night and a candle of differing height, called a shamash, which is used to light the others. The number of candles lit is increased by one each night.

The Saying of Blessings over the Candles - Depending upon the tradition, three blessings (Brachot) are recited either before or after the lighting of the Hanukkah candles on the first night. On the following nights, only two of the three are recited.

The Singing of the Ma’oz Tzur - After the lighting of the candles each night, the Hebrew song Ma’oz Tzur is sung. The song’s themes are that of salvation and praises to God for the Jews’ survival of persecution throughout history.

The Consumption of Fried Food & Cheeses -  To commemorate the miracle of the oil, foods that are fried in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) or sufganiyot (round jelly or custard-filled doughnuts) are eaten during Hanukkah.  Cheese is also served in honor of the bravery of Judith, who helped lead the Jews to triumph over the Assyrian troops by seducing and assassinating the Assyrian general, Holofernes.

The Playing of the Dreidel Game - A four-sided top called a dreidel, which features a single Hebrew letter (Nun, Gimel, Hey or Shin) imprinted upon each side is spun on Hanukkah. These letters are an acronym for “Nes Gadol Haya Sham” or “a great miracle happened there”, which refers to the miracle of the oil.  When playing, each player begins with a set amount of gelt (real or chocolate coins) and places one coin in the pot to start. The letters also represent the rules of the game. Depending on which side the dreidel falls upon, the player will either skip a turn (Nisht), take the whole pot (Gants), take half the pot (Halb) or put an additional coin in the pot (Shtel).