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Hanukkah Lesson for Kids: Facts & History

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Hanukkah is a festival celebrated every year by people of the Jewish faith. In this lesson, learn about the history of this holiday, and discover traditions and ways that people celebrate this Feast of Lights.

Festival of Lights

Imagine a holiday that lasts eight nights and is full of historic traditions, games, and delicious food. Hanukkah is the holiday that fits this description.

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) is a religious holiday celebrated by Jewish (or Hebrew) people, or those who practice a religion called Judaism. Hanukkah lasts eight nights and is often called the Festival of Lights.

This holiday occurs on different dates each year, with Hanukkah starting anytime from the end of November to the end of December.

The History of Hanukkah

According to Jewish beliefs, a king named Antiochus the Fourth ruled a land called Syria thousands of years ago. As king, Antiochus declared that it was illegal for people to practice the Jewish religion. A Jewish priest named Mattityahu and his family rebelled against men in the king's army.

During the rebellion, Mattityahu was killed and a man named Judah the Strong became the leader of those fighting the king, known as the Maccabees. Even though the king's army was much larger, the Maccabees won the rebellion!

After winning the city of Jerusalem (an important city in the Jewish faith), the Maccabees wanted to restore their temple. To cleanse the temple of all the bad things that happened there, they wanted to light the menorah, a special holder for candles. But the king's army had stolen the temple's menorah so they had to make a new one.

When the new menorah was ready, the Maccabees found there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one night. According to Jewish tradition, a miracle happened and the menorah stayed lit for eight nights, just long enough for new oil to be made! Hanukkah celebrates this miracle.

On each night of Hanukkah, a candle on the menorah is lit.
Hanukkah menorah

Traditional Foods

Many traditional foods are prepared and shared during Hanukkah. Latkes, thin potato pancakes that are sometimes served with applesauce, are a favorite traditional food.

Potato latkes are a traditional food served during the celebration of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah foods

Another favorite is jelly-filled doughnuts. Both foods are cooked using oil and are served to honor the miracle of the oil lasting eight nights.

Hanukkah Symbols

There are many symbols that represent the holiday of Hanukkah. Colors for the holiday are blue and white. Many of the presents exchanged during Hanukkah are wrapped in blue and white paper.

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