Celebrating Hanukkah: A Crafty Festival of Lights
Published on: December 08, 2020
Crafty mom Lia shares her family’s tradition of celebrating the Jewish festival of Hanukkah and a brilliantly easy and gorgeous craft that you can adapt for any celebration.
By Lia Segall
My kids love Christmas trees. Christmas is everywhere from October to January and we admire the beautiful decorations and lights. Still, in their little hearts, they wish for Hanukkah to come, and they know that Christmas trees mean this holiday is also approaching!
Hanukkah dates back to 164 BCE, when the second great temple was invaded and destroyed by the Greeks. Jewish warriors, known as the Maccabees, led an army of Jewish people to Jerusalem, where they revolted against the Greeks and recovered the temple and the city. On their shields they had the star of David, an important Jewish symbol.
After their victory, they had to clean the temple and found an oil lamp that only had enough oil to burn for one day. However, this lamp burned for 8 days and gave them enough time to clean and get more oil. This is called the miracle of the oil, and that’s why we celebrate Hanukkah for eight days!
On each of the eight days, we light the hanukkiah, a menorah (candelabra) with 9 candles. The tallest is called shamash and it is lit every day; this is the candle responsible for lighting the other candles. On the first day, we light the shamash and 1 candle, on the second day – shamash and 2 candles, and so on until we get to 8.
In our house, we tell the story of Hanukkah every day. Then we EAT! No Jewish holiday is complete without food. We eat lots of fried food — because of the oil in the lamp — we have donuts filled with jelly (or chocolate!), latkes (fried potato pancake) with cream, cheese or even sugar, and we make a feast each night. Some days we celebrate at home as a family, some days we go to a friend’s house, and some days we invite people over; it is a busy and happy week. But the fun doesn’t end there as we play with a dreidel (spinning top) and win chocolate coins. The kids even receive a gift on each of the 8 nights! Some families celebrate differently, giving only one gift, or distributing money, called Hanukkah Gelt, but what we all have in common is lighting the menorah.
In our family, we get into the spirit of Hanukkah by decorating our house, only using decorations made by ourselves. I keep every craft made by the kids each year (noting the name and year), and then we use them again for the following years to display what the kids made in previous years next to the new things. This is our little tradition, and it always makes us smile when we open the Hanukkah box and put the decorations up together.
We have made paper chains in the shape of dreidels, menorahs, and even little jars like the one that held the oil. We have made drawings and coloring pages. I have cut shapes of menorahs, dreidels, and stars of David in shiny metallic paper for the kids to glue on black construction paper. We cut different shapes from colorful tissue paper to glue to carved black card. We hang these against the window because it looks beautiful when the light comes through. We have printed DIY dreidels, and we’ve made our own Hanukkiah with different materials. My favorite is a hard base with glued nuts to hold the candles — we put one nut on top of the other for the shamash as it needs to be taller — and the kids can easily make and decorate their own to light during the holiday.
So this is Hanukkah, our festival of lights! Competing with Christmas is not easy in a place like Bangkok. In our little expat world, and especially when kids go to international schools that emphasize Christmas and Santa, it sounds like an impossible task. Still, my kids are eager to celebrate Hanukkah every year with all the strength in their little hearts because it’s the coolest holiday (and they love 8 days of chocolate, donuts and gifts)!
For this year’s holiday season, I want to share a “how-to” for making a beautiful and easy craft decoration.
Star of David mobile
This craft can be adapted for Christmas or any other celebration. You can use any combination of colors you like and can transform it into a snowflake, a five-point star or another shape. You could make a frame and add a white tissue paper layer as a base and different shapes on top of it to create a scene.
To make it you will need:
Tissue paper cut into small shapes, any colors can be used
White or transparent glue
String to hang or tape to set on the window
Making your star:
- Make your star shape by gluing the sticks into two triangles. Then place one on top of the other (one facing up and one facing down) and glue them together. You can prepare this beforehand and let it dry or do it all at the same time, but the kids might need help to make the star shape.
- Spread glue on the star frame and start placing your papers along the top with a little bit sticking out toward the hollow spaces inside the star.
- Once the whole frame is covered, add a few drops of glue on the papers sticking out to gl ue more paper and cover all the empty spaces. Cover the other side as well if you will hang it rather than taping it to a window.
- Let it dry overnight and place a string on the top and hang it close to a source of light. It’s foolproof, and you will see the light coming through the colors, it’s so pretty!
In the end, you will have a colorful star made by your child! The fact that they did it and it’s hanging in the house will make them very proud. Decorations are a great way to involve the kids and let them participate, and it’s your choice where you display them kids don’t get offended if you put it in your bathroom as long as you come up with a good excuse for why you need it there. Happy holidays!
About the author
Lia grew up in a Jewish family in Mexico and moved to Israel in 2010. She had a son in 2014 who made her fall in love with breastfeeding, so she became a lactation counselor. In 2017 she moved to Thailand and had a daughter. She used to volunteer for Bumps & Babies and runs Bangkok Breastfeeding Cafe where she gives a human approach and support to mothers. She is the creator of Saving my Sanity, a Facebook group with ideas and resources for toddlers and preschoolers.
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