Eight Ways to Make Your Chanukah Fun
Books, art projects, recipes and charitable ideas for making the holiday special this year. Even a world record.
When Chanukah begins on Dec. 21 this year, try these new ideas to make the holiday special for your kids.
1. Act It Out
Gather your young children (ages 3-8) round the candles and tell them the story of Chanukah. Then let them loose to find props and costumes and come back to act it out for you.
Cindy Bralove, a teacher at the Joseph & Corinne Schwartz Preschool at Beth Israel says she does something similar to this in her class. She tells her students the story and they mirror back in their own words. Then she lets them have free play on their stage area.
Fun character suggestions: Judah Maccabi, Matitiyahu (Judah Maccab’s father) or Alexander the Great.
2. Make an Exchange
Giving gifts is a fun part of Chanukah. Pikesville resident Abbe Zuckerberg has a way to make giving more meaningful.
Each year, she and her family collect the change that falls down the laundry chute. Come Chanukah time, the Zukerbergs count it up, give 10 percent to a selected charity and then divvy up the rest for gifts for the clan. Each person picks a name out of a hat, and the family takes a trip to Target or Wal-Mart to select the perfect gift.
“I still have a necklace I wear that my son gave me from Wal-Mart,” Zuckerberg reminisces.
3. Eat It
In the time of the Maccabis, the oil that was supposed to last only one day actually lasted eight. Because of this, there’s a tradition to eat oily foods on Chanukah. Mt. Washington resident Dina Dresin loves making her mother’s latke recipe with her youngest daughter,
“The secret to a great latke is to grate by hand,” says Dresin.
And the most fun part singing Chanukah songs while they cook. “All kids learn ÔThe Latke Song in preschool,” says Dresin. “Making latkes, they can see the song in action.”
- 1 cup canola oil
- 5 potatoes, hand grated
- 1 onion, hand grated
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tbsp flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil. Mix all ingredients together. Form into balls and drop into the oil-filled frying pan. Cook until brown.
4. Get Artistic
Help your child make a functional Jerusalem-style menorah. You’ll need:
- 12-inch rectangular ceramic tile
- assorted containers of fish gravel
- all-purpose glue
- 10 metal nuts
With the glue and fish gravel, make a mosaic design on the tile. When its dry, glue nine of the metal nuts on in a row, to represent candles. Add a second nut on top of the middle candle for the shamash.
Jill Davis, a preschool teacher at Temple Oheb Shalom’s Learning Ladder, makes this project each year with her class. She says the chanukiot resemble the mosaics in the Old City of Jerusalem.
5. Read About It
New this year is “Hanukkah Haiku” by Harriet Ziefert (Blue Apple Books, 2008, hardcover, $16.95). The 32-page book is a series of Japanese-style 5-7-5 syllable poems about the holiday, perfect for children ages 4-8.
Sonia Kozlovsky, librarian at Krieger Schechter Day School, says its a perfect book to spearhead a personal Chanukah project— having your kids write their own haikus about the Festival of Lights!
(The book is available online and at some local retailers.)
6. Play It
Game-playing has long been a part of the Chanukah tradition, starting with the dreidel. Play dreidel on the first night, but on the other seven nights play a family board game. Do some research and make a list of games, then drop the names in a hat and let the kids draw seven. Buy them, wrap them, and each night select one from the pile.
Dan Levy, founder of Funstreet Games, recommends two new 2008 games:
SET Cubed (for 8+), a curious game of clever connections
Hyper Dash (for 6+), an electronic game that moves as fast as you do
7. Send Some Love
Nothing like a Chanukah card to spread the seasonal cheer. In Barbara Stadd’s kindergarten class at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, the kids make a unique, interactive card to send to family and friends.
- X-acto knife (optional)
- 3-4 pieces of construction paper, one red
- Stickers, stamps, crayons and/or markers
Using an X-acto knife or scissors, cut nine oval flames into a piece of construction paper (one higher than the rest). Using a second piece of construction paper, cut a rectangle strip, the width of the first paper. Place the strip behind the flames (but don’t glue it). Then glue the red piece of construction paper to the back of the first piece of construction paper, behind the rectangle strip. Be careful not to glue near or on the rectangle strip.
Cut out nine candles and glue them beneath the flames. Then give the child stickers, stamps, crayons and markers and let them decorate the card, writing “Happy Chanukah” at the top.
When the child is done, write “pull” on the edge of the rectangle strip. When your child pulls, the red paper will be revealed and the candles will be lit!
8. Throw A Party
This fun dessert party can’t be “topped,” according to a new book, “Crafting Jewish” by Rivky Koenig (ArtScroll, 2008, hardcover, $29.99).
Get your child’s friends together for an ice cream and sufganiyot (doughnuts) decorating party.
Place doughnuts on a platter alongside bowls of chocolate and vanilla icing, shakers of sprinkles, confectioners sugar and colored sugar. Place ice cream cones, ice cream, fudge sauce, caramel sauce, strawberry topping, sprinkles, crushed nuts and whipped cream in bowls and/or cups on the table. Have ice-cream scoops, spoons and lots of napkins ready.
Each person can dip his or her doughnuts in the icing of choice and add sprinkles or sugar and then customize an ice-cream sundae.Play dreidel, sing songs and have a ball!
Did You Know?
The dreidel game was derived from a game of top that existed in
England as early as 1500. Over the years, Jews adapted the game to be played around the Chanukah holiday. The letters nun, gimmel, hey and shin came to stand for “nes gadol hayah sham,” “a miracle happened there.”
King Of Spin
The University of Michigan is currently the spinning champ.
The University’s Hillel set the “World Record” for most dreidels spinning simultaneously for at least 10 seconds last March. It was then that students, faculty and community members dethroned previous record-holder, the University of Maryland, College Park, which set the record last December on the second day of Chanukah. Michigan topped Maryland 610-603! Rematch, anyone?