Categorized | Chanukah, Holiday

Chanukah Family Activities

Posted on 18 July 2010

Fun Chanukah Family Activities


Eight Ideas for Family Fun While the Menorah is Burning

Chanukah is on its way and I’m sure many of you have started planning Chanukah parties or buying gifts for friends, family and teachers. Each night of Chanukah, as the flames are burning, you will have the opportunity for some lovely family time. Now is the time to plan to use those holy moments each night to do a fun and memorable activity. The activities should be so much fun that it will help you diffuse the children’s focus on Chanukah presents, and increase their focus on the menorah lighting as a special and exciting family time.

While I’m not sure if there’s a Torah source for family fun while the Chanukah flames are lit, there is a custom not to do any work at that time. According to the Maharil it is a tradition to rest from work while the lights of the menorah are burning. It is customary that women, in particular, do not work while the menorah is lit. These customs are alluded to in the name of the holiday: “Chanu” which means “they rested” and “Kah” – spelled with the letters “chaf” and “hey” which have the numerical value equal to 25. The word Chanukah, which means “Dedication” can also mean: “They rested on the 25th “. 25 Kislev is, of course, the first day of Chanukah on the Hebrew calendar.

If playing endless rounds of the dreidel game won’t keep your family excited for all eight nights, here are eight other ideas for good clean family fun that you can do together while the menorah lights are burning. Enjoy!

Night 1: Play Charades using words from the Chanukah holiday. You can use my suggested words below or come up with some of your own words. Be sure only Mom or Dad will be the one to write out the words onto little slips of paper so everyone else in the family can play. Give a little Chanukah gelt to each person who guesses correctly. (Be sure to head to the bank to buy “golden” dollar coins and two-dollar bills to give out as Chanukah gelt throughout the holiday!)

· Jar of Oil

· Holy Temple (in English) or Beis HaMikdash (in Hebrew)

· Potato Latkes

· Judah (Yehudah) Macabee

· Antiochus

· Month of Kislev

· Hallel

· Shamash

· Dreidel Game

Night 2: Be a Human Dreidel. If you own the game “Twister,” take it out and see if you can twist your body as easily as a dreidel. This game is so much fun it’s really worth buying!

Night 3: Take a Menorah Tour. If you live in a heavily populated Jewish area, or you can drive to such an area, go out for a nighttime walk to see all the different Menorahs displayed in people’s windows. Make it fun for your children by letting them bring flashlights or letting them go on wheels: scooter, tricycle, skates, etc…

Night 4: Make a Latke or Sufganiot (Jelly Doughnut) factory. If you’re making latkes let younger children scrub potatoes and mix the batter, let elementary age kids grate potatoes and add the eggs, flour and spices to the batter. Teen kids or parents can be in charge of the actual cooking.

If you’re making Sufganiot let younger children add ingredients to the dough mixture and roll it out. Elementary age kids can cut our dough circles. Older teens or parents need to handle the deep frying, of course.

Be sure to play Chanukah music while you’re cooking and enjoy.

Night 5: Interview grandparents about how they celebrated Chanukah in their childhood. You can make up some questions in advance and then call to ask while the candles are burning. A few general questions I would want to know about my grandparents are:

· How did your family celebrate?
· Did you cook and eat latkes?
· What did your menorah look like?
· Did you get presents or gelt?
· Do you remember a present you got in particular or an amount of gelt and how you spent it?
· Did you play the dreidel game?

Night 6: Theater night! Act out scenes from the Chanukah story. Be sure to make costumes and props from stuff you have around the house. If you want to be creative, make up your own play – a funny one of your own… Here are a few ideas:

· A Shadchan tries to make a match between a potato and a frying pan. The shadchan has to convince them they have a lot in common and convince the parents that potatoes and frying pans really can make a beautiful couple.

· A dreidel who tries to spin all the way to Yerushalayim. The dreidel meets interesting people along the way who keep it spinning and help it reach its destination.

· A hidden, antique menorah is found and children try to imagine the family to which the menorah used to belong.

Night 7: Bake Chanukah cookies on the Sunday before Chanukah and run out one night to deliver a few “pekelach” (packages) of cookies and coins to friends, neighbors or family. Turn this activity into a real chessed (kindness) by delivering some pekelach to a Jewish Old Age Home, too.

Night 8: Tired of cooking, acting and running around the neighborhood? How about a game of “Crazy Eights”? Break out a deck of cards and have a good time!

A few last minute reminders:
If you haven’t done these things yet, you should get started right away.

· Polish your menorah (do you need to buy more polish?)

· Pick up ingredients for any special foods you want to have. It’s traditional to have dairy foods during Chanukah – so be sure to stock up on cheeses, sour cream, yogurts, etc. If you want to cook latkes or sufganiyot look up recipes and make a list of any special ingredients you’ll need to buy.

· If you light an oil menorah, do you need to replace any oil cups? Did you buy Extra Virgin Olive Oil and wicks? If you light a candle menorah, be sure you have enough candles available. Some inevitably break, so be sure to have a few extras around, too.

· As mentioned above, stop by the bank to pick up golden dollar coins and two dollar bills. The custom on Chanukah custom is to give Gelt. It’s great fun to give out these unusual dollars, especially to little children who may have never seen them before. Your bank may have to order these items for you, so don’t wait till the day of Erev Chanukah to try to pick them up. If you want the older silver dollars or half dollars you’ll probably have to go to a coin dealer as these aren’t minted any more.

What fun activities does your family do during Chanukah? Please email me some of the ways your family gets into the Chanukah spirit.

Wishing you all a happy and perfectly-organized Chanukah!
— Rivka

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