Beginning on the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah is an eight-day festival remembering and commemorating the long history of the Jewish people. The Festival of Lights is a time for Jewish families to pause, reflect, and remember centuries of tradition. Family roots and history are such an important part of any child’s development, as they shape a child’s sense of identity and community. After all, you have to know where you’ve come from to shape where you’re going to go. Introducing Hanukkah traditions to your kids at an early age this holiday season can help ground them in their familial roots.
Because the Hebrew calendar follows a lunisolar system, dates do not necessarily line up with the Gregorian calendar. In 2021, Hanukkah will be celebrated from sundown November 28 to nightfall December 6. Time to start planning what traditions you will incorporate into the celebration this year while introducing Hanukkah to your kids!
Tell Your Kids the Story of the Festival
Like with most holidays, there are parts that kids will already know well. They know when they are due to get gifts and when it’s time for special foods—and what that food will be.
However, over the years, sometimes the reason for a celebration gets lost in the celebration itself. The story of Hanukkah is a beautiful one, about hope, perseverance, and miracles. Make sure you tell your children about it! After all, the purpose of a cultural holiday is to celebrate one’s heritage and pass it on to the next generation. Heritage is shared identity, and identity is made up of stories and history. Sharing Hanukkah with your kids means more than just lighting the candles and giving the gifts.
Of course, introducing heritage to young kids can be challenging. Children don’t exactly have the longest attention span, and they may also struggle with the more complex aspects of holidays.
Consider using songs, rhymes, and hand games to introduce the story and traditions of the festival. After all, call-and-response and kinetic activities are generally considered the best mode by which to learn information, especially for children. Not every parent is the most compelling storyteller, and kids are more likely to pay attention to the tale if it is incorporated into play.
There are various toddler-appropriate songs and rhymes you can find online to use with your kids. Songs can be a great way to make the the storytelling experience engaging. If you are working through the festival period, have your babysitter teach your kids the lyrics and let them show you what they learned when you get home!
All holidays come with a set of ritual ceremonies and objects—the most significant during Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah. Include your kids as active participants in the ceremony and make something their “job.”Giving them a sense of ownership over some of the traditions allows them to see their identity in this celebration and connect on a personal level.
Introducing Hanukkah Traditions to Kids With Games
Games are another fun way to introduce Hanukkah traditions to young kids. The classic, of course, is dreidel, the spinning top game to earn chocolate coins. Everyone puts in their wager at the start. Then each player gets a chance to spin the dreidel, following the prompt on whichever Hebrew letter lands face-up. “Nun”earns you nothing, while “gimel” nets you the whole pot! If your spin lands on “shin,” you have to add a piece, whereas “hey” earns you half the total wagered. The scramble to win all the chocolate coins you can will get the whole family invested!
Prepare Hanukkah Recipes with the Kids
Just as much as stories, heritage is about traditions: what we eat, what we drink, and when we do it. Every holiday has its own special foods, and Hanukkah is no different! Getting into the kitchen with the kids to make some customary Hanukkah foods is a great way to integrate these traditions in a tangible (and tasty) way.
Latkes are a classic, and a reminder of the significance of oil at Hanukkah. Plus, they require only a few ingredients! Simply combine some grated potatoes, an onion, a little flour, half a teaspoon of baking powder, and some salt and pepper to shape some small potato pancakes. Squeeze out any excess water, and fry them up in oil.
Healthy, delicious, and also in theme with the holiday is an edible menorah. To make this showstopper, slice grapes into nine thin slices and array them on a plate. Place pieces of asparagus under them, with the tips on the sliced grapes. Little slivers of sliced carrot will then complete the look, creating a candle flame-and-halo illusion. Construct a menorah “base” with some green beans along the bottom of the plate and, finally, place a cheese slice in the shape of the Star of David in the center.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try to make your own chocolate gold coins for dreidel? Melt some good quality chocolate and pour the liquid about a quarter of an inch deep into disposable cups. Allow this to set, then, once they are hard, turn them out and wrap them in foil. You’re now set to wager your handmade coins!!
Whatever treats you decide to make, be sure to enlist your kids in the process.
Get a Babysitter’s Help With This Holiday Season
Hanukkah is the perfect time not only to revisit faith and tradition, but also to pass these on to your kids. You can teach them about the festival’s origins, significance, and relevance to their heritage. It is a wonderful way to highlight family roots and introduce them to their history.
Of course, the end of the year is crazy enough without holidays to attend to. If you need a little help navigating the season and making it all work, consider hiring a babysitter! Nanno’s babysitting service provides parents with access to a vast network of babysitters and nannies across several major US cities. All childcare professionals are thoroughly vetted beforehand, so you can be sure your kids are in good hands. Plus, you can filter Nanno sitters to find someone who matches your precise needs! Sign up for Nanno today and get started!