Right now it’s the Jewish festival of Hannukah (or Chanukah). Tonight is the 4th night, when some people give presents. Others give presents only on the 5th night or every night. Hannukah lasts for 8 days and the symbol is a menorah, an 8 branched candle holder. The festival celebrates a miracle that happened after a small army of Jews known as the Maccabees defeated a much larger Greek army over 2000 years ago. When the Jews reached the Temple in Jerusalem they found there was only one small container of special purified oil to light the seven-branched Menorah, which needed to lit as part of the service every day. New oil would take eight days to make but the people lit the Menorah anyway and the oil miraculously burned for eight days until they had new oil.
The Hannukah menorah has eight candles, one for each day that the oil burned, and a servant candle that is used to right the others. The candle furthest to the right is lit on the first night. On the next night the candle to the left of the first candle and the first candle are lit, and it continues one new candle each night until the last night when all candles are lit. The candles are left burning for half an hour, but because today is Friday – the Jewish Sabbath – the candles will burn for half an hour. The menorah is supposed to be visible from outside and in Jerusalem there are special glass or plastic cases outside houses for it. In other countries the menorah is put in a window.
Because the feast is associated with oil it’s traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes (potato cakes) and doughnuts. It’s also traditional to play a game with a special toy called a dreidl. Long ago Jewish children weren’t allowed to study their religion in the open so they hid in caves. When soldies came by they hid what they were studying and started to play with the dreidl. It’s a game that you can play too using the printable templated from Enchanted Learning and some raisins or pieces of chocolate.
The dreidl has four sides with different characters and a pointed bottom. You spin the dreidl on the bottom and when it falls over the Hebrew character that shows tell you what to do. The characters are ש, ׁ ה , ג , נ .
The first character is ‘Nun’. You do nothing.
The second is ‘Gimel’. You can take everything in the middle of the table, and all the plays put a raisin or piece of chocolate in to make a new pot.
The third is ‘Hey’. You get to take half the goodies. If it’s an uneven number you leave the left over one in the middle.
The fourth character is ‘Shin’. You give a raisin or piece of chocolate to the pot. Better luck next time!