After several years working with international students and living in a city that has such a wealthy of diversity, not only do I get to participate in all the exciting events and opportunities for Christmas but I also get to witness first hand some other holidays as well as how other cultures may celebrate Christmas. It is so exciting to learn new things and to be able to share them with my children and have them exposed to the whole wide world of holidays. Here are some ways, I explain all the different holidays this month to my children through either our home school time or playtimes.
This year Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 4, 2007. Sometimes Hanukkah is also referred to as Chanukah. This is the Jewish holiday that occurs quite often around the same time as Christmas, but it is not a “Jewish” Christmas. It is actually an eight day festival titled “The Festival of Lights.” It is a celebration in honor of a miracle that occurred a long time ago when the Jews and the Maccabees (another group of people) wanted to keep the Jews from being able to worship God in their own way. They fought for three years and in the end the Jewish people got to keep their temple (a church) because of a miracle. Long ago, the only light that people had came from burning oil in lamps and these people were running out of oil. They only had enough to light the lamps for one more day and they would not be able to fight anymore. This is where the miracle occurred, the lights in the temple kept burning for eight days, which gave everyone enough time to make more oil and to win the battle. During the celebration of Hanukkah, the great miracle of light is remembered. This is done by lighting candles each night for all eight days of Hanukkah in memory of the eight days that the lamps stayed lit in the temple.
Story Time: The stories this week are: A board book, “My First Menorah, by Salina Yoon. This board book is so much fun. As you turn the pages, cut out candles flames add to each page, eventually ending with 8 candles flames total. The history and tradition of Hanukkah is clearly stated and understood. My daughters love this book. Add, “All Kinds of Children,” by Norma Simon and “Chanukah Lights Everywhere,” by Michael Rosen.
Music Time: This week let your children free form it. They can bang on the drums, pound on the piano keys, and play the guitar. I also turned on the music channels on the satellite TV and played holiday music, including Hanukkah. You can also down load holiday music (see webpage) and save it to a CD. It’s quite lovely and upbeat, the children will love dancing to it.
The candles are held in a special candle holder called a menorah, which has nine “branches”. Each branch holds a candle to be lit; the center candle is used to light the others. The candle on the far right it lit on the first night and then each night after those candles are lit. One the second, two candles and so on until all eight candles are lit. Special foods are served during this holiday, just like we do for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. One food you can make with your children is latkes, which are potato pancakes. The significance of latkes is that they are prepared quickly like foods were during the battle as well as fried in oil as a reminder of the miracle of the burning oil.
Counting: You can create a felt menorah and have your children count the branches to reinforce number and counting skills. Let the children take turns “lighting” the candles with felt red flames.
Fine Motor Skills: There are also special games and songs and other family events too. One really fun game is dreidel. This is a game where you spin a “top” that has one Hebrew (that is the Jewish language) letter on each side of the spinner. The letters mean different words, all together it means, “A Great Miracle Happened There.” To play the game each player may use nuts raisins, pennies or chocolates as tokens. You spin the dreidel and depending on which letter your top lands on you have different instructions. The instructions are, you do nothing, the next person spins; you may take all the tokens in the pot; you take half the pot; or you must put one token in the pot.
This game is easy and fun to play with your own children or young classroom. You can change it to reinforce either letter or number recognition. Put 4 different English letters on there or numbers and let the children and adults have some fun playing the game.
Dreidels are available at Party City and other specialty religious stores. Or you can go online and print and cut out this template and create your own. Make one for every child in your household or classroom.
Color Recognition: Blue is the traditional color of Hanukkah. Your children can create their own greeting cards, wrapping paper or pictures using blue art supplies. Provide them with different colors of blue in paints, crayons, markers and if age appropriate glitter. Let them glue down torn pieces of blue tissue paper, it make a really neat colorful design and this art project lets your children do “process” art where it is free form and they use their own imagination to create their “craft.”
Latkes recipe: 2 lbs of potatoes, 1 onion, ½ cup chopped scallions (including the green), 1 beaten egg, salt and pepper to taste and vegetable oil for frying. Peel potatoes and onion. Grate them. Press out the excess liquid into a bowl, save it for later. Mix the potatoes, onion and starch at the bottom of the bowl. Add the scallions, eggs and salt. Heat a frying pan and add a small amount of vegetable oil. Press the potato mixture into thin pancake shapes. Place in hot pan and fry until golden brown on both sides
This is also a great appetizer for your holiday parties, I include some sour cream and Chives to serve with it. You can make it with the children in the classroom and send home some or you can fry it at home and freeze some for later.
Cost of these plans: $1.79 for a bag of potatoes, $1.29 for scallions, the books are from the library; $2.50 for the felt and I printed the dreidels out on card stock paper I had at home already.
The month of December is the perfect time to teach your child or classroom about different cultures and holidays. This will help them when they encounter those of other cultures or ethnicity as well as reinforce some standard skills such as counting and colors and kindness and courtesy to those different from us.
Next lessons: Christmas in Mexico, Christmas in Australia, and Kwanzaa
If you like these lesson plans, try:
15 Gifts You and Your Children Can Make for Christmas with instructions
Zoo Themed Lesson Plans for 2-3’s
Good Night Sleep Tight Lesson Plans
Teaching Your Child Color Recognition
Elmo Goes Poo and You can Too – Potty Training