This year Hanukkah begins on Friday, December 11 at sundown. Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukkah) is the festival of rededication, also known as the Festival of Lights and is a 2,000-year-old tradition. It celebrates the Jewish people’s ancient triumph over their enemies. More than 2,000 years ago, the king of Syria, Antiochus, marched with soldiers into Judea which was the home of many Jewish people. He tried to force the Jewish people to worship the Greek gods. When they refused, the Temple in Jerusalem was attacked by the Syrian soldiers, who killed many Jewish people and stole sacred objects, including a menorah – a holy candelabrum used in the Temple. Until then, the flame of this menorah had never before been extinguished. The soldiers defiled the special oil used to light this menorah.
Hanukkah Activities and Reading for the Montessori ClassroomThe king returned to Syria but the soldiers stayed and disrespectfully terrorized the Jewish people. An old Jewish man named Mattathias, along with his sons, began to fight the soldiers. When Mattathias grew sick, he named his son, Judah the Maccabee, as leader of the group. For two years the Jewish people continued to fight the soldiers. Eventually Judah and his followers overthrew their enemy from Jerusalem. The Jewish people were now free. They began to clean up the Temple and restored the holy menorah. They only had enough oil to burn for one day, but despite that the flame burned for eight days, giving them time to replenish the oil for the menorah. Ever since that time, Jewish people have celebrated Hanukkah by lighting candles for eight nights in a row, and eating food cooked with oil, such as Latkes. Today, the menorah typically has nine candles; the ninth candle is used to light the other eight candles.
Hanukkah Activities for the Montessori Classroom
- Study the menorah and its origin, along with its symbolism connected to Hanukkah.
- Cook potato latkes and other traditional Hanukkah foods. Have a feast!
- Study the history of the dreidel, and how it is related to Hanukkah. Bring a dreidel into the classroom to show the students.
- Explore the number “8” for an entire day. Find 8’s nature. Look at all of the mathematical relationships that include 8. Write a poem about 8.
- Light The Lights! A Story about Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas, by Margaret Moorman
- Hanukkah Moon, by Deborah Da Costa
- Holidays around the World: Celebrate Hanukkah: With Light, Latkes, and Dreidels, by Deborah Heiligman
- Festival of Lights: The Story of Hanukkah, by Maida Silverman
- Moishe's Miracle: A Hanukkah Story, by Laura Krauss Melmed
- The Miracle Jar: A Hanukkah Story, by Audrey Penn
- Hanukkah at Valley Forge, by Stephen Krensky
- The Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah, by Isaac Bashevis Singer
- The Stone Lamp: Eight Stories of Hanukkah through History, by Karen Hesse
- Eight Lights for Eight Nights, by Debbie Herman
- Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli
- The Cage, by Ruth Minsky Sender
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, December 3, 2009.