How to Explain Hanukkah to a Child: Fun & Engaging Guide

  • By: admin
  • Date: September 19, 2023
  • Time to read: 11 min.

With Hanukkah just around the corner, you may be wondering how to teach your child about this festive holiday. Explaining Hanukkah to a child can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure where to start. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

In this guide, we will provide a fun and engaging approach to teaching your child about Hanukkah. From the story of the Maccabees to lighting the menorah, your child will learn about the traditions and symbols of the holiday in a way that is both informative and enjoyable.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explaining Hanukkah to a child can be fun and engaging.
  • This guide will provide an overview of the holiday, including its significance and traditions.
  • You’ll learn about the story of the Maccabees, the lighting of the menorah, traditional Hanukkah foods, and more.
  • By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the tools you need to share the joy of Hanukkah with your child.

What is Hanukkah?

If you’re looking to teach your child about Hanukkah, it’s important to start with the basics. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that typically falls in December. It celebrates the victory of a small group of Jews, called the Maccabees, over the larger and more powerful Syrian-Greek army over 2,000 years ago.

As part of their victory, the Maccabees rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the Syrians, and lit a menorah with only enough oil to burn for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, allowing the menorah to stay alight until more oil could be found.

This miracle is at the heart of the Hanukkah story, and is why the holiday is often referred to as the “Festival of Lights.

What are Hanukkah traditions?

Hanukkah is a time for celebration and reflection, and there are many traditions associated with the holiday. One of the most well-known is the lighting of the menorah. This involves lighting one candle on the first night of Hanukkah, two on the second night, and so on, until all eight candles are lit on the final night.

Another tradition is playing the dreidel game. This involves spinning a small top with Hebrew letters inscribed on each side. Players bet on which letter will land facing up, with different letters corresponding to different outcomes.

Finally, Hanukkah is a time for enjoying special foods with family and friends. Traditional Hanukkah foods include latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts).

Hanukkah candles
Hanukkah is a time for celebration and reflection, and there are many traditions associated with the holiday.

Now that you have a basic understanding of Hanukkah, you can begin to share the holiday’s rich history and traditions with your child.

The Story of Hanukkah

To understand Hanukkah, you have to travel back more than 2,000 years ago to Ancient Israel, where the Jewish people were ruled by the Seleucid Empire of Syria. The then-ruler of Syria, Antiochus IV, tried to force the Jewish people to adopt Greek culture and beliefs, banning the practice of Judaism and desecrating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Despite being vastly outnumbered, a small group of Jewish rebels known as the Maccabees fought back against the Syrian army, eventually recapturing the Holy Temple and rededicating it to Jewish worship. According to the legend, there was only enough oil to light the temple’s menorah for one day, but miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, allowing the Maccabees to prepare more. This miracle is celebrated during Hanukkah, which means “dedication” or “rededication” in Hebrew.

Hanukkah celebration with menorah

The Menorah and the Festival of Lights

At the heart of Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah. The menorah is a special candlestick with eight branches, plus an additional branch called the shamash, which is used to light the other candles.

Each night of Hanukkah, one additional candle is lit, until all eight candles are burning brightly. This is done to commemorate the miracle of the oil, which burned for eight days in the Temple, even though there was only enough oil for one day.

Lit menorahs are often displayed in windows for all to see, representing the triumph of light over darkness and the spread of hope and joy.

Hanukkah Menorah

In addition to lighting the menorah, Hanukkah also involves the Festival of Lights, which is celebrated through songs, prayers, and games. Families often gather to sing traditional Hanukkah songs such as “Ma’oz Tzur” (Rock of Ages) and “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah” while enjoying festive foods like potato latkes and jelly donuts called sufganiyot.

The holiday also inspires acts of kindness and generosity towards others, as well as the sharing of Hanukkah traditions and stories with family and friends.

The Dreidel Game

One of the most beloved Hanukkah traditions is playing the dreidel game. This game involves spinning a four-sided top called a dreidel, and betting on which side it will land on.

The dreidel has Hebrew letters on each side: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hay), and ש (Shin). These letters stand for the phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham,” which means “A great miracle happened there” referring to the miracle of the oil in the Hanukkah story.

Dreidel Game

To play the game, each player starts with an equal number of small objects like chocolate coins or nuts. Everyone takes turns spinning the dreidel, and depending on which letter it lands on, players either add to the pot, take from the pot, or do nothing.

Here is what each letter means:

Letter Meaning
נ (Nun) Do nothing
ג (Gimel) Take all from the pot
ה (Hay) Take half from the pot
ש (Shin) Add one to the pot

The game continues until one player has won all the objects in the pot. In some variations, the winner then shares their winnings with the other players, emphasizing the importance of generosity and kindness during the holiday.

The dreidel game is a fun and easy way for children to learn about the Hanukkah story and its traditions. Encourage your child to join in on the fun and enjoy the festive spirit of the holiday!

Hanukkah Traditions and Food

In addition to lighting the menorah and playing dreidel, Hanukkah is also celebrated through various traditions and foods. These customs highlight the importance of family, community, and joy during the holiday season.

Gift-Giving: Similar to other holiday traditions, Hanukkah also involves gift-giving. Children receive presents, often in the form of gelt (chocolate coins) or small toys, each night of Hanukkah.

Special Food: Traditional Hanukkah foods include latkes and sufganiyot. Latkes are potato pancakes fried in oil, while sufganiyot are jelly doughnuts. These foods symbolize the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days in the temple.

Community Celebrations: Many communities come together to celebrate Hanukkah through candle-lighting ceremonies, music performances, and other festive events.

If you’re celebrating Hanukkah with your family, consider incorporating these traditions and foods to make the holiday even more special.

Hanukkah traditions and food
The miracle of the oil is about having faith, hope, and believing in the impossible.” – Rabbi Avi Richler

Hanukkah Around the World

Hanukkah is celebrated all around the world, and every country has its unique customs and traditions.

In Israel, Hanukkah is a national holiday, and schools and offices are closed for the entire week. People light menorahs in public spaces, and there are special performances and events throughout the country.

In Italy, traditional foods like ricotta-filled doughnuts and fritelle di Hanukkah are enjoyed. The lighting of menorahs takes place in synagogues and public spaces, and the streets are decorated with festive lights.

The Jewish community in India celebrates Hanukkah with oil lamps made from clay, and the lighting of the menorah is accompanied by singing and dancing. Traditional Indian sweets are also enjoyed during the holiday.

In the United States, Hanukkah has become a widely recognized and celebrated holiday. Many communities hold public menorah lightings, and there are Hanukkah-themed concerts, plays, and festivals. Traditional foods like latkes and sufganiyot are also enjoyed.

“In every generation, one must look upon himself as though he personally went out of Egypt.” This quote emphasizes the importance of not only remembering but reliving the events that led to the celebration of Hanukkah, regardless of where you are in the world.

Hanukkah Around The World

Whether you are in Israel, Italy, India, or the United States, Hanukkah is a time for celebrating the triumph of light over darkness and the dedication and resilience of the Jewish people. By learning about different Hanukkah traditions around the world, we can all gain a deeper appreciation for the holiday’s global significance.

Hanukkah Crafts and Activities

One of the best ways to engage children during Hanukkah is through fun crafts and activities. These creative projects allow children to explore the holiday’s traditions and symbols while developing their creativity and fine motor skills.

Here are some inspiring Hanukkah craft ideas and activities to try with your child:

1. DIY Menorah

A DIY menorah is a perfect way to personalize your Hanukkah celebration. Gather materials such as nine candles, a wooden board, and decorations like paint, glitter, and stickers.

Start by painting the wooden board or covering it with colorful paper. Next, use hot glue to attach the candle holders and decorate the board with glitter and stickers. Finally, add the candles and light them each night of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah Menorah DIY

2. Dreidel Decorating

Spinning the dreidel is a beloved Hanukkah tradition. To make this activity even more exciting, have your child decorate their own dreidel. Provide plain wooden or plastic dreidels and materials such as paint, markers, and glitter.

Encourage your child to get creative and decorate their dreidel in their own unique style. Then, play the game together and watch as your child’s creation spins around the table.

3. Hanukkah Coloring Pages

Coloring pages are a simple yet relaxing activity for children of all ages. Look for free printable Hanukkah coloring pages online and print them out for your child to color.

These coloring pages often include symbols of Hanukkah such as the menorah, dreidel, and Star of David. As your child colors, use this opportunity to explain the meaning behind each symbol and its significance in the Hanukkah story.

4. Hanukkah Musical Chairs

If you’re looking for a fun Hanukkah game to play with a group of children, try Hanukkah Musical Chairs. Use Hanukkah-themed music and have the children circle around the chairs as they play. When the music stops, everyone must find a seat. The child who doesn’t find a seat is out, and one chair is removed for the next round.

This classic game is a great way to get children moving and laughing during Hanukkah.

With these Hanukkah crafts and activities, you can engage your child in the holiday’s rich traditions and symbols while having fun together. Happy Hanukkah!


Congratulations, you have successfully learned how to explain Hanukkah to a child! By using a fun and engaging approach, you can now share the story and traditions of this important holiday with your little ones. Remember, Hanukkah is a time for family, community, and celebration, so don’t be afraid to get creative with crafts, activities, and festive foods.

As you continue to teach and learn with your child, consider exploring how Hanukkah is celebrated in other parts of the world. By gaining a broader understanding of this holiday’s global significance, you can foster cultural understanding and inclusivity in your family.

Can the Same Approach Used to Explain Ramadan be Applied to Explaining Hanukkah to a Child?

When it comes to explaining Hanukkah to a child, can the same approach used to explain Ramadan be applied? While both religious observances have unique customs and traditions, finding common ground may still be possible. By focusing on similarities like the joyful celebrations, significance of family, and the act of giving, parents can utilize the same gentle and educational approach used to explain ramadan to a child, fostering understanding and respect for different cultures and traditions.


Q: How do I explain Hanukkah to my child?

A: Explaining Hanukkah to a child can be done in a fun and engaging way. You can start by telling them that Hanukkah is a special holiday celebrated by Jewish people. It lasts for eight nights and is also known as the Festival of Lights. During Hanukkah, we celebrate a historical event when a small amount of oil miraculously lasted for eight days in a temple. We light candles on a special candleholder called a menorah and play games like dreidel. It’s a time for families to come together, exchange gifts, and enjoy delicious foods like latkes and sufganiyot.

Q: What is the significance of Hanukkah?

A: Hanukkah is an important holiday in Jewish culture. It celebrates the resilience and bravery of the Maccabees, a group of Jewish warriors who fought against religious persecution. The holiday also symbolizes the miracle of the oil in the temple, where a single day’s worth of oil lasted for eight days. Hanukkah reminds us of the importance of faith, perseverance, and the power of light in times of darkness.

Q: Can you explain the story of Hanukkah to a child?

A: Of course! The story of Hanukkah goes back many years. It starts with a powerful king who ruled over the land where Jewish people lived. The king did not allow them to practice their religion freely. But a group of brave Jewish fighters called the Maccabees refused to give up their faith. They fought against the king’s army and eventually won. When they reclaimed their temple, they found only enough oil to light the menorah for one day. But miraculously, the oil lasted for eight whole days. That’s why we celebrate Hanukkah and light the menorah for eight nights!

Q: What is the Festival of Lights?

A: The Festival of Lights is another name for Hanukkah. During this holiday, we light candles on a special candleholder called a menorah. We start with one candle, and each night we add another one until all eight candles are lit. The menorah is placed in a window or a central spot in the home to spread the light and remind us of the miracle that happened long ago. It’s a beautiful tradition that brings warmth and joy to our homes during Hanukkah.

Q: What is the dreidel game?

A: The dreidel game is a traditional Hanukkah game that children love to play. A dreidel is a spinning top with Hebrew letters on its sides. Each letter represents a different action during the game. Players take turns spinning the dreidel and following the instructions based on the letter it lands on. It’s a fun way to celebrate Hanukkah and learn about its story. You can even create your own dreidel and make up your own rules!

Q: What are some Hanukkah traditions and foods?

A: Hanukkah is filled with wonderful traditions and delicious foods. Some of the traditions include lighting the menorah, exchanging gifts, and playing games like dreidel. When it comes to food, we enjoy special treats like latkes, which are potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, which are jelly-filled donuts. These foods are fried in oil to remind us of the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days. Hanukkah is a time for families to come together, enjoy good food, and create lasting memories.

Q: How is Hanukkah celebrated around the world?

A: Hanukkah is celebrated in different ways around the world. In some places, people light menorahs in public spaces to share the holiday’s joy with everyone. In others, communities gather for festive events and parades. Some countries have their own unique customs and traditions, adding their own cultural flavor to the holiday. No matter where you are, Hanukkah is a time for spreading light, love, and happiness.

Q: What are some Hanukkah crafts and activities for kids?

A: There are plenty of fun Hanukkah crafts and activities that kids can enjoy. You can make your own menorah using recycled materials or create Hanukkah-themed decorations to brighten up your home. Another idea is to design your own dreidel or play a game of dreidel with your friends and family. You can also have a Hanukkah-themed scavenger hunt or bake delicious Hanukkah treats together. The possibilities for creativity and fun are endless!

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