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Happy Hanukkah: Lighting the Menorah

This activity explores the traditions of Hanukkah with a homemade menorah, and will form an exciting introduction to the holiday for all children in your setting!

In 2020 Hanukkah will span December 10-18th and this activity can be enjoyed throughout, and is best suited for smaller groups of older children.


This activity involves flames. Make sure both the matches and candles are out of children’s reach at all times.

What you will need:

  • Matches
  • Tray
  • 9 birthday candles (like these)
  • Air-drying clay (you can find some here)
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Preparing the activity:

  1. Cut or roll a strip of clay about 20cm long, 1 inch high and 2 inches wide,
  2. Add an extra cube of clay, about 1 inch squared, to the centre of the strip.
  3. Press 9 candle holders into the clay - one on the raised middle section and 4 in a line on either side.
  4. Leave your menorah to dry and harden.

Doing the activity:

Put aside some time over a span of eight school days and explain to the children that you will be lighting a candle on the menorah at the same time each day. This will have to be a time of the day when the children are feeling calmer and more reflective, as there will be candles lit and so safety is very important!

If possible, situate the menorah by a window, as the purpose of the candles is to spread the word of the miracles that the menorah represents.

Lighting the Menorah

It is important to light the menorah in the correct way, in the correct order. You should always light the middle candle, the Shamash, first and then use it to light the other candles. On the first day, the Shamash should be lit and then used to light the first candle on the far right of the menorah, then the Shamash should be placed back in its holder.

On the second day, the candle on the far left should be lit, along with the Shamash and the candle on the far right. Continue doing this each day, going from right to left, until all candles are lit on the eighth day.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

A simplified version of the Hanukkah story:

Long ago in Israel the Jewish people prayed to God in their Temple, called a Synagogue. This was the most important place for them and, every night, they would light the menorah and the Temple would be lit up.

The king of Israel at the time didn’t like the Jewish people and told his guards to go and ruin the Temple. They made a mess, broke things and smashed the jars of oil that were used to light the menorah.

The Jewish people eventually managed to get the king’s guards out of their Temple and cleaned everything up. They lit the menorah, but only had enough oil for one day. But a miracle happened, and the oil lasted for eight days!

Now, every year during Hanukkah, Jewish people light the menorah every night for eight days to remember this miracle.

Explain to the children that the menorah is a way that Jewish people remember and mark Hanukkah. Encourage children to talk about how familiar/unfamiliar they are with Hanukkah. Are any of the children Jewish? Allow them to talk freely about their experience without feeling like they have to explain Hanukkah to the group.

Make sure the children understand that, even if it is not an experience familiar to them, Hanukkah is very important for Jewish people, much as their families’ own cultural and religious festivals are important to them.

Tracking the activity:

­­­­­­22-36 months

Understanding the world: People and communities; “Learns that they have similarities and differences that connect them to, and distinguish them from, others.”

30-50 months

Understanding the world: People and communities; “Shows interest in different occupations and ways of life.”

40-60+ months

Understanding the world: People and communities; “Enjoys joining in with family customs and routines.”