Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights, is a celebration of religious freedom. This joyous celebration commemorates a great victory won by the Jewish people nearly 2,000 years ago and lasts eight days and eight nights. The first day of Hanukkah corresponds to the Hebrew calendar and begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month, Kislev. This is typically falls at the end of November or beginning of December.
2,000 years ago in Judea, the country today known as Israel, the king of Syria, Antiochus IV, began to persecute the Jewish people who lived there, preventing them from practicing their religious customs and instead forcing them to adopt Greek religious practices. The Syrians then seized and looted the Jew’s Holy Temple in Jerusalem and erected an altar to the Greek god Zeus. Thus, began the Jewish rebellion.
A two-year battle ensued between the Syrians and the Jewish army, called the Maccabees, and was led by a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons, one of whom was named Judah Maccabee. Upon regaining control of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews believed that the temple needed to be rededicated before they could worship there. However, the Maccabees discovered that there was only enough consecrated oil to burn the menorah, a candelabra used in Jewish religious ceremonies, for one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted a full eight days and eight nights, giving the Jews ample time to produce more oil. Hanukkah, which comes from the Hebrew word meaning “rededicate” or “consecrate” commemorates this miracle and is celebrated by lighting a menorah on eight successive nights.
Placing and Lighting the Menorah
A Hanukkah menorah has nine candleholders, eight to commemorate the miracle of the oil rather, and the ninth in the center, known as the “Shamash,” which literally translates to “servant” or “helper”. One candle is lit each night of Hanukkah and the Shamash is lit every night and used to light the other candles.
The menorah should be place somewhere in your home such that it is visible from the street. The purpose of lighting the menorah is not only to commemorate but also to publicize the miracle of the oil. Most families today place their menorah in the window.
At nightfall, gather your family around the menorah.
• Recite the following blessing at nightfall on the first day of Hanukkah before you light the first candle. "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah."
• Light the shamash and use it to light the candle on the far right of the menorah. As you do, recite the second blessing: “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors, at this season, in days past.”
• Replace the Shamash and let both candles burn for at least on half hour after nightfall.
• Recite the third blessing only on the first night of Hanukkah: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who gave us life and kept us and delivered us to this time.”
• On the second night, and each night thereafter, use the Shamash to light the new candle first and then the one from the previous night(s) while saying blessings one and two above.
Hanukkah is celebrated with food, games and gifts as well. Traditional Hanukkah foods include fried doughnuts and latkes, which are potato pancakes fried in oil, as a reminder of the miracle of the oil.
The dreidel is a four-sided top and is used to play a simple gambling game. Each side of the top features as different character: nun, gimel, hey and shin. Each player starts with whatever tokens will be used—pennies, candies or some other token—places on in the collective pot, and then takes turns spinning the dreidel. When the dreidel stops spinning, the character tells the player what to do: nothing, take all, take half, or add a few to the pot. Many Hanukkah songs reference this fun game.
Giving gelt, real or chocolate money, is also a Hanukkah tradition. In recent years, this has evolved to giving a small Hanukkah gift for each night of the eight-day celebration.
Star of David coloring page
Menorah coloring page
Kids lighting the Menorah coloring page
Hanukiah coloring page
Hanukkah candle lighting coloring page
Hanukiah and Star of David coloring page
Hanukkah symbols coloring page
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