101Kidz : Holidays : Hanukkah : Customs


During Hanukkah Jewish families celebrate the rededication of their temple. They light candles on a Menorah, a candle holder which holds 9 candles. Eight of the candles are for the eight days that the oil burned in the ner tamid. The ninth candle, called the Shamash, is used to light the other eight candles. After lighting the day's candles they recite prayers or sing songs to celebrate.

Latkes, or potato pancakes, are fried in oil and eaten to remind the Jews of the oil that burned in the ner tamid. The latkes are often served with warm applesauce.

A dreidel, or small four sided top, is used to play a game. On each side of the top is one Hebrew letter. These letters, Nun, Gimel, Hay, and Shin are the first letters in the sentence, "A great miracle happened there," or "Nes gadol hayah sham." In order for the Jews to teach their children Hebrew when Antiochus outlawed it, the Jewish people sometimes disguised Hebrew lessons in the forms of children’s games and toys.

Gifts are sometimes given to children. Often the gifts are Hanukkah gelt, or money, which can then be used when playing with the dreidel.