Hanukkah is one of the most significant periods in the Jewish calendar, celebrated by millions worldwide. Also known as the Festival of Lights, it is observed by lighting one candle on the menorah candelabrum each day.
Hanukkah is celebrated in November or December in the western calendar. The holiday begins on ninth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar, and is celebrated for eight days.
Observing the Jewish peoples’ struggle for religious freedom, the word Hanukkah means “rededication”. The festival marks the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century BC, when the Israelites, led by the Maccabees, gained victory over the Greek-Syrian oppressors. Hanukkah is celebrated in a number of ways, from the traditional lighting of the menorah to special foods and games.
As Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as sufganiyot – jam-filled doughnuts. Traditional foods include potato pancakes, known as latkes in Yiddish, particularly among Ashkenazi families. According to rabbinic literature, there is also a tradition of eating dairy products, such as cheese, during Hanukkah.
For this activity, we talked about these different fried foods. We then created a number of them out of play dough, and pretended to cook and serve them to our friends!
Cooking and dramatic play activities are not only a fun, engaging activity for children, but one that can be used as an important teaching and development tool.
For instance, the act of following a recipe or creating a dish can encourage self-direction and independence, while also teaching children to follow directions and use thinking skills to problem solve.
Also, when children come together in a dramatic play experience, they are learning many things! They not only negotiate roles, but cooperate and listen to one another to bring their ideas to life. And by recreating some of the experiences they actually face, they learn how to integrate new material with previous learned information.