Hanukkah Core Concepts (And Pretzel Candles)

Pretzel Rod Candles for HanukkahAs our grandchildren grow, I like to remember the three core Hanukkah concepts to emphasize with young children.

Here’s an excerpt from “Celebrate Hanukkah: How to Light Up Your Holiday.”

From the basic Hanukkah story come the three core concepts that we suggest sharing with young children: light, miracle, and oil.

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Here are some examples of how to bring each concept to life in your home:

#1 / Light

  • Light Hanukkah candles during the eight nights of the holiday.
  • Place the menorah in a window (facing the dark of the winter sky), showcasing the twinkling of the lit candles.
  • Turn off the overhead lights in your room and just watch the flames dance.

Thanks to a friend from Texas for sharing her tradition: “We decorate our house during Hanukkah with loads of holiday lights and spend time together in just the light of the lights.”

#2 / Miracle

  • Because we light one more candle each night of Hanukkah (i.e., one on the first night, two on the second night), we show how the miracle of the little vat of oil also gets greater every night.
  • The letters on the dreidel stand for the phrase, “a great miracle happened there.”

#3 / Oil

  • Fry latkes (potato pancakes) in oil. Your house will smell wonderful!
  • Serve doughnuts (fried in oil), especially jelly doughnuts.
  • Reinforce that the one jug of oil in the ner tamid in the Holy Temple lasted for eight days.
  • If you happen to have an oil-burning menorah (rather than one that burns candles or is electric), the connection to the oil is even easier to explain.

Pretzel rod candles

Want a food + counting game to help the kiddoes visualize 8 candles?

Make a whole sheet of these fun pretzels that look like candles. My daughter made these charming treats by dipping pretzels in melted chocolate (melted in Mason jars in a slow cooker in a water bath), then placed them on parchment paper.  After that, she and friends decorated them with sprinkles or drizzled them with melted chocolate from a squirt bottle. For really young kids, their part would be adding the sprinkles.

Then have the kids count out enough to make a whole “menorah” of pretzel rods. Place the rods on flat platters or cookie sheets. If you want, add an orange or red candy to the top, as the flame. Peppermints or orange gummy rounds would work well. To make the “shamash,” ask your kids to offer ideas of what they can imagine for how to make this one taller. You’ll probably get a variety of inspired answers.

After you light the real candles, enjoy these crunchy, sweet treats.

Treat turned philosophy

Leading rabbis from the 1st century BCE, Shammai and Hillel founded schools of Jewish thought that debated ritual practice, ethics, and theology.

Shammai believed that we should light all eight candles on the first night and diminish the number of candles lit each night.

Hillel, by contrast, thought that we should light only one candle on the first night, two on the second, and build up to the total of eight candles. Hillel’s philosophy won the vote and has been handed down to us as the most popular custom.

If you have older children, you can use this treat as the basis for a philosophical discussion — even a debate. Have the two sides argue the benefits of each approach (like the famous latke vs. hamentaschen debates), with pretzels awarded for especially good points.

Or, try the Shammai concept,  set up a cookie sheet with all eight pretzels and eat one each night, so that only seven are left on the second night, six are left on the third night and so on. (To keep the rods fresh, I’d recommend covering and refrigerating them.)

Even adults will enjoy the challenge of discussing the relative merits of both schools of thoughts, especially when the debates are accompanied by these delicious treats.

How do you bring Hanukkah to life in your home?

Share your special traditions. And please send pictures of decorations, playing games, cooking together to ellen@jewishholidaysinabox.com. I’ll share them on Facebook to inspire others.

Jewish Holidays In A Box in the news

We are grateful for the reviews and thoughts from these papers and bloggers:

  • Our Jewish Homeschool Blog, “Chanukah in Box and Other Reviews,” November 18, 2013.  Read more …
  • Small Batch Studio, “Your Hanukkah Celebration. It’s in the Box!” November 18, 2013. Read more . . . 
  • Callistasramblings.com, “Happy Hanukkah Activity Pak from Jewish Holidays in a Box (GIVEAWAY),” November 14, 2013.   Read more . . .
  • Oogiah.com, “Gift Giveaway – Hanukkah Bingo Game.” October 30, 3013. Read more . . .
  • Glamamamasgoodies.blogspot.com. “Thanksgivvukah and Hanukkah Giveaway.” October 31, 2013.   Read more . . .
  • Jewish Scene Magazine, “Hot Hanukah Finds – Games And Crafts.” October 30, 2013. Read more…

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    • Ellen says

      Thanks, Grandma Kc! I took some pictures of these a long while ago, because I thought they were so cute. Then, as we got close to Hanukkah, I realized that they do look like candles. Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving 🙂

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