Academy BJE, NSW Australia  

Read the information then click on the links below it to do the exercises.

                                CHANUKAH FUN

                      THE CUSTOMS OF CHANUKAH

What is a Chanukiah?


A menorah is the type of candelabra we see in synagogues today, just like those that used to be kept in the Temple. A normal menorah has seven candleholders, usually all the same height.

The special candelabra we use for Chanukah is called a ‘chanukiah’. It has nine candleholders, but they are not all the same height. One of them is different from the rest: it is either taller, or sits in front or to the side of the others. This different candleholder is called the shamash or ‘servant’ and is used to light the other eight candles.

The reason the chanukiah has nine candleholders is to represent the eight days of Chanukah (plus the shamash). We light one more candle every night of Chanukah.

The Dreidel


The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top that is used for a fun spinning game. On each side of the top is a Hebrew letter, either a nun, a gimmel, a hey or a shin. These letters represent the Hebrew words Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means ‘A great miracle happened there’. The dreidel game reminds us of the Chanukah miracle.

Chanukah gelt and gifts

Have your parents or grandparents ever given you Chanukah gelt? If so, you are like thousands, maybe even millions, of lucky Jewish kids around the world!

Gelt is Yiddish for ‘money’ and Chanukah gelt is real coins or chocolate wrapped with gold foil. People say this custom started about three hundred years ago in Poland. During Chanukah parents there used to give money to their children’s teachers. Soon they also started giving small coins to their own children, as a reward for studying hard.


                    Special Foods for Chanukah

Levivot (Potato latkes)

This is a traditional food eaten during Chanukah. Potato latkes are grated potato patties fried in oil. Most of the traditional Chanukah foods are fried or cooked in oil, to remind us of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days in the Temple.

Sufganiyot (Jam-filled doughnuts)

These sugar-covered, jam-filled doughnuts are very very popular in Israel during Chanukah. The doughnuts are dropped into hot oil without being shaped and therefore come out in odd shapes - the funnier the better!


Dreidel butter cookies

These are delicious old-fashioned style butter cookies which are shaped like dreidels and sprinkled with sugar.

A Chanukah Song

This is a hymn that is sung after the candles are lit. The words recall the miraculous defeat of Israel’s various enemies over the generations.

Maoz tzur

Maoz tzur yeshua-si

Lecha na-eh li-sha-beyach

Tikone bais ti-fee-lasi

Vi-sham todah ni-za-beyach.

Li-ase ta-chin mat-beyach

Mee-tzar ham-na-beyach

Az eg-more vi-sheer meez-mor

Chanukas ha-meez-beyach

Az eg-more vi-sheer meez-mor

Chanukas ha-meez-beyach.

O Rock of my salvation, with delight we praise You.

Restore the Temple where we will bring offerings.

When You will eliminate our enemies,

Then I shall sing at the rededication.

More Chanukah songs


S'vivon, sov sov sov.
Chanukah hu hag tov.
Chanukah hu hag tov,
S'vivon, sov sov sov!
Chag simcha hu la-am,
Neis gadol hayah sham.
Neis gadol hayah sham,
Chag simcha hu la-am.

Dreidel, spin, spin, spin
Chanukah it is a good holiday
Chanukah it is a good holiday
Dreidel, spin, spin, spin
A happy holiday for our people
A great miracle happened there
A great miracle happened there

Y’me haHanukkah

Y’-me ha-ha-nu-ka ha-nu-kat mik-da-she-nu, b-gill
uv’-sim-ha m’-mal’-im et lee-be-nu; ly-la va-yom
s’vee-vo-ne-nu yee-sov, suf-ga-nee-yot no-chal
bam ;a-rov. Ha-ee-ru had-lee-ku ne-rot ha-nu-ka ra-bim,
al ha-nee-sim v’-al ha-nif-la-ot a-sher
ho-l-lu ma-ka-bim; ho-l’-lu ma-ka-bim

Chanukah Riddles

a)  The group that was in hiding
Winning battles, law abiding,
Had the name of hammer, and
Can you name the famous band?

b)  I am the leader bold
of the Maccabees of old,
The father of great fame.
Do you know my name?

c)  I am the leader’s son.
When he died, I was number one.
They called me the Maccabee.
Now guess: who could I be?

d) The war was fought for years;
There were hard times and tears;
We wanted to return to pray
In this building every day.

e) After the enemy’s flight
The Temple needed light.
They didn’t use candles, you see
They found one little jar of me.

f) Today we remember the past.
Eight days celebrations last;
Latkes, gelt and dreidels
Chanukah, family and riddles!


a)  Maccabees
b)  Mattathias
c)  Judah
d)  Temple
e)  oil
f)  Chanukah

My Quia activities and quizzes
Useful links
Last updated  2008/12/08 10:22:02 AEDTHits  4026