Classic potato latkes: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015533-classic-potato-latkes
Israeli donut recipe: https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/sufganiyot-israeli-donuts.html
Make your own dreidel: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/easy-hanukkah-dreidel-craft-kids/
How to play dreidel: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/how-to-play-dreidel/

It’s a religious celebration with candles, games, yummy food and sometimes presents… and no, we’re not talking about Christmas. This is your Squiz Kids Shortcut to Hanukkah—the podcast where we dive into the who, what, when, where, why and how of the big news stories. I’m Amanda Bower.

And I’m Bryce Corbett.

Bryce, I know that you’ve been counting down the days until Christmas on the podcast…

Oh yes, I love Christmas! Can’t wait!

Well, try not to get too envious when I tell you that Hanukkah, which many people think of as the Jewish alternative to Christmas, starts earlier – on December 19 – and lasts until December 26.

Eight whole days! Today, we’ll take you through WHAT Hanukkah is; HOW it’s celebrated; and WHY it’s celebrated at a different time each year.

Listen carefully – there’s a Squiz at the end!

The Hebrew word Hanukkah means “dedication”, and to explain WHAT it is, we’re going to need to fire up the old Squiz Kids time machine. We’re heading back… I’m talking 2,200 back… to Jerusalem, a city in the Middle East that is a holy place for Jews. At that time, the Greek King Antioches IV Epiphanes – with the help of his mighty army – was ruling over Jerusalem. And he was forcing local people to adopt Greek culture and religion. But then came the rebellion: a small band of Jews, the Maccabees, fought the Greek army, and drove them out of Jerusalem.

So is the “dedication” of Hanukkah talking about how dedicated those Jewish fighters were?

Actually, no. It refers to one of the first things the Maccabees did once the Greeks were gone. They went to what’s called the Second Temple in Jerusalem – a temple is a house of worship, like a church or a mosque is – and they “rededicated” it to the Jewish God. That was because the Greeks had destroyed many things in the temple, and put up a statue of one of their own gods, Zeus.

And what did “rededication” involve?

Well, they cleaned the temple, installed a new altar, and lit the Menorah.

A menorah is a special kind of candlestick mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, and in Jewish holy books. It holds seven different candles, right?

Either candles OR little oil lamps. And the only reason I’m adding that on, is that the miracle of the oil is really important to Hannukah. The story goes that when the Maccabees first entered the Second Temple, they found one remaining jar of pure oil for the Menorah. It should only have lasted for one day, but it kept burning for eight straight days… until more pure oil could be produced.

Aha… the lamp was lit at the dedication, called the Hanukkah, and it burned for eight days… and the celebration of Hanukkah lasts eight days…

You’ve got it! Although Jewish scholars LOVE to debate… so some of them argue that if the oil was meant to last one day, only SEVEN days were really miracles. Still, there’s no doubt that lighting the menorah is THE most important religious aspect of Hanukkah today. Let’s talk about HOW Hanukkah is celebrated.

So Bryce, Jewish families often have two menorahs… an everyday one that holds seven candles, and a special Hanukkah one that holds nine. One candle is called the Shammash, or “helper”, and it’s used to light the others. On the first night of Hanukkah, you light the first candle – on the second night, you light that one plus one more… and so on, until on the last night, all eight, plus the shammash, are blazing.

And what do people do once they’ve lit the menorah?

Well, in keeping with the OIL theme, they often eat fried food! I’ll put a link in your episode notes to a recipe for latkes, which are fried potato pancakes, served with applesauce or sour cream. In Israel, which is considered the Jewish homeland, people prefer sufganiyot, which are jelly-filled doughnuts… so I’ll throw that recipe in for free, too!


A common game played by kids during Hannukah uses a four-sided top called a dreidel, which has a Hebrew letter on each side. Those four letters stand for the Hebrew phrase that means “A Great Miracle Happened Here” – referring again to the miracle of the oil. It’s a pretty fun game, so I’ve put a link in your episode notes for a way to make your own dreidel and play.

And you mentioned that presents were sometimes involved?

Well, the tradition is to give kids Hanukkah-Gelt – gelt means money. The idea was that this would allow children to pay some of the money forward and donate to charity. But because presents are so important to most people’s celebrations of Christmas, and Hanukkah happens close to Christmas, it’s not uncommon nowadays for Jewish kids to get EIGHT presents… one for each day of Hanukkah.

I’m glad you brought up the timing of Hanukkah. WHY is it celebrated on a different date each year?

Judaism has a different calendar from the calendar used in most parts of the world, which is called the Gregorian calendar. Right now, in the Gregorian calendar, we are in the year 2022. On the Jewish calendar, we are in the year 5783, which began at sunset on September 25 this year, and will end at sunset on September 15, 2023.

Ah… and because the Jewish year lasts less than 365 days, Hanukkah starts on different days on our calendar.

That’s right – it always starts on the evening of Kislev 25 on the Jewish calendar… Kislev is a month that occurs around November and December on our calendar, and is sometimes known as the month of dreams.

Candles, fried food, games… sounds like the stuff of dreams to me!

This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening…

1. What’s the name for the special candlestick that is a symbol of the Jewish religion? 
2. What does the word Hanukkah mean?
3. The Maccabees defeated the Greek army, and then dedicated – or rededicated – a temple in which city?