How to Celebrate Hanukkah and Start a Family Tradition

Special times spent together can bring a family closer. In December, Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated. On the Jewish calendar, there is the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah.

Hanukkah remembers the victory of the Jews over 2,000 years ago. When the small conquering force led by Judas Maccabbees returned to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, the found the lamp unlit. It was their custom for the lamp to continually be supplied with oil so there would always be a lamp in God’s house.

There was only enough oil for one day’s worth of light. A messenger was sent to retrieve more oil but he was not to return for eight whole days. During that time, God worked a miracle because the lamp never went out as they faithfully waited for the messenger to return.

A menorah with eight candles is proudly displayed. The center candle is taller than the others and it is used to light the other seven. Each night the center candle is lit as well as the number of candles representing the day, starting from the left and going to the right.

For families, especially children, Hanukkah may seem like another time to get gifts. The tradition comes in when the festivities are explained as they are honored. Here are some ideas for your family to celebrate and bring the meaning of the event to life for your children and others who might be celebrating with you.

1. Let the kids create their own menorah. Kids love crafts because they get to make something with their hands. As they work, explain what each piece of the menorah means.

2. Set the menu ahead of time. Don’t forget the potato latkes and applesauce. Let kids know that this meal is fried in oil to remember the long-burning oil in the lamp of God. Another favorite is the doughnut dessert called sufganiyot. The doughnuts are filled with jelly and are without holes. Make some with your kids.

3. Play a game of dreidel. You can even craft your own dreidels. Explain what the four letters on the sides of the toy mean. Each represents a character that stands for “A great miracle happened here.” That is what occurred when the lamp in the temple of God stayed lit for eight days with one day’s worth of oil.

4. Create a Star of David. The star commemorates the greatest king of Israel. Display it prominently throughout the event as a symbol of the Jewish faith. Let the kids create one with your help.

If you have been going through the motions of Hanukkah, maybe it is time to make the traditions come to life for your children. Show them the meaning behind the event to begin a family tradition that will last for many years to come.