Fry up the latkes! Spin the dreidels and count up the gelt! It's Hanukkah! This year, Hanukkah starts at sunset December 24, 2016, and ends at sunset January 1, 2017. Even if you don't celebrate Hanukkah in your house, why not add a bit of multicultural entertainment into your family's holiday mix with some Hanukkah fun and games!
Dreidel You can buy a dreidel, a small wooden or plastic top with four sides, in most stores' holiday sections. If you want to go all out, you can also pick up some gelt (chocolate coins), though pennies and other spare change work just fine. Dreidel is a pretty simple game. The Hebrew letters on the dreidel--nun, gimel, hey, and shin--symbolize the phrase "A Great Miracle Happened There"--meaning Israel. Cool fact: dreidels made in Israel have one letter different ("peh" instead of "shin") because they stand for "A Great Miracle Happened Here." If your dreidel lands on "nun" you do nothing; "shin" you put one in; "hey" you take half the coins; and "gimel" you get all the coins. (Like my little underlines to help you keep track of what to do?) Your goal is to be the last one with coins. For more details on how to play, plus a video, click here. Other fun challenges with dreidels are to see whose can spin the longest, try to spin it on its top, and see how many dreidels you can get spinning at one time.
Latke Toss Latkes are a traditional Hanukkah food because they are fried in oil, which is what kept the lights burning for the miracle of eight nights. (By the way -- Trader Joe's has delicious frozen latkes. We eat them all year long!) For a Hanukkah party I helped host a few years ago, I made latke-shaped beanbags by sewing circles of brown felt with rice (sealed in bags) inside. If you aren't up for taking out the sewing machine, you can put any beanbag you already have between two brown paper bag circles, and then staple around the edges. It may not last too long, but it will be fun while it lasts! I then drew a giant frying pan on a poster and placed it over our Bag-o game (bean bag toss lawn game). Kids took turns trying to toss the latkes in the frying pan -- 1 point for getting it on the board, 2 points for touching the frying pan, 3 points for fully on the frying pan, and 5 points for in the hole. If you don't have a beanbag toss game, just place your own frying pan (or kid frying pan) on the floor and have kids toss it in.
Frying Pan Flip I also used the beanbag latkes for the Frying Pan Flip game. I gathered a couple of plastic frying pans from my kids' play kitchen, and attached a latke with a string to the handle. The kids then swung the latke up and tried to catch it in the frying pan. As a challenge for older kids, I had them try to flip the latke on a plastic spatula.
Latke Race Another game with the beanbag latkes (I made a lot!) is like the egg on a spoon race. Each kid places a beanbag latke on a plastic spatula (from your kitchen or the dollar store), and they race across the room and back, trying not to have the latke fall off the spatula.
Pin the Shamash on the Menorah The Hanukkah menorah (also known as a Hanukkiah) holds nine candles. The center candle is called the "shamash" ("helper" candle). It sits taller than the other eight candles and is used to light the other candles on the menorah. (Click here to learn about the order of placing and lighting the candles.) I created a "Pin the Shamash on the Menorah" game, similar to "Pin the Tail on the Donkey." Younger kids can try to get the candle on any of the holders. Older kids can try the challenge of getting it on the shamash location.
Hanukkah Songs Warm up your voices and try out some lively Hanukkah songs! Here is a list, along with lyrics and links to the melodies.
Marshmallow Dreidels While the traditional Hanukkah foods are those cooked in oil (latkes and jelly donuts), adding in some marshmallows and chocolate can be a sweet dessert treat. Use marshmallow fluff to attach a chocolate kiss to the bottom of a large marshmallow, push a pretzel stick through the top, and you've made yourself a marshmallow dreidel!