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Jewish Holiday Traditions: How To Celebrate the Miracle of Hanukkah With Kids

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Ever since I became a mom for the first time, teaching my children the miracle of Hanukkah has been a beautiful experience. Sure, Jewish holidays go hand-in-hand with food but there is something more to the oil that we use to light the candles and fry latkes to celebrate Hanukkah.

During the time of the 2nd Temple, Israel was ruled by the Greeks, who forced the Jews to give up religious customs: Torah learning, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh (the New Month), Brit Milah (Circumcision), and the holiness of Jewish marriage. The Greeks wanted to replace these sacred practices with their own Hellenistic practices. In other words, they wanted the Jewish people to replace their religious practices with Greek secular practices. Not having the beauty of lighting the Shabbos candles every Friday night for me would be horrible. A miracle was needed.

Mattityahu and his sons (The Maccabees) were priests who normally performed Jewish rituals in the Temple. They started an army to revolt against the Greeks. Miraculously they won! They finally returned to the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) to ignite the Menorah once again. Only one small jar of olive olive was found but it lasted eight days! This was another incredible miracle!

The story of Hanukkah has so much to teach children about the miraculous events that happened.

How To Celebrate Hanukkah With Kids

The following are some of the ways we celebrate Hanukkah with our children:

The Menorah

The children have made their own Menorahs in school and we use them to light the candles in our home. If you drive in a very Jewish neighborhood, you will see Menorahs displayed near the window for all to see.

The Dreidel

The children love playing dreidel. In fact, a game like dreidel was played during Greek rule in Israel. Earlier I mentioned that Torah study was forbidden. The Jews still studied Torah, but brought a top with them. Greek soldiers visited Jewish homes. The Torah was put away and replaced by a game of dreidel. A dreidel has a Hebrew letter on each side. These letters change for us living outside of Israel, they are: נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay) and ש (Shin), which stand for the Hebrew phrase "Nes Gadol Haya Sham." This phrase means "A great miracle happened there [in Israel]." In Israel, that phrase changes to “A great miracle happened here [in Israel].”

The Food

Yes, food, glorious food. If you like oil, you will love the foods of Hanukkah, which include: Potato Latkes (chopped potatoes fried in oil), Sufganyiot (Donuts filled with jelly, carmel, or chocolate), and Cheese pancakes with ricotta. Yes, this is a Jewish holiday that uses a lot of cheese. For more great Hanukkah recipes check out Levana Kirschenaum's recipes at

The Gelt

Sure, many people think of “Jewish guilt”, but gelt is everything but that! Money is given out to children instead of gifts. Hanukkah is also a very special time to give to charitable organizations like Mazon, an organization that feeds the hungry.

Hanukkah helps us teach our children about the miracles in our every day lives. The reflection of the glimmering candles in their eyes gives us hope that they will continue to teach their children the same in the future. Wishing you all a meaningful and beautiful holiday season.

Do you celebrate Hanukkah? What is your favorite part about this Jewish holiday?

A natural born schmoozer, Esti has connected with brands and bloggers from around the world. Esti has hosted twitter parties, written product reviews, and has been invited to exclusive blogging events for major brands including Schwinn, Staples, Hidden Valley, Osem, Hellmann's, Manischewitz, Duncan Hines, All, SC Johnson, Skechers, Hood, and Stride Rite, just to name a few. Esti was invited to cover the The Martha Stewart Show using her twitter account and she was mentioned as a “mom blogger to follow” on “The Talk” on WCBS. Esti was invited to tape a segment on The Rachel Ray Show and most recently Dr. Oz. Esti blogs at, how she found Kosher food, a husband, and had kids after 35. Esti is the Kosher Traveling Mom on Follow Esti shares about being a parent after 35 on twitter @primetimeparent and about Kosher food @estiberkowitz.

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