celebrating Chanukah with children

Celebrating Chanukah with Children

Chanukah is the highpoint of the Jewish winter. This festival of lights commemorates the burning of oil-filled candles for eight nights when there was only oil enough for one. In keeping with the importance of candles and oil to this event, candles are lit each night for eight nights.

Foodwise, fried foods play a starring role. Your kids will love their chance to act as sous-chefs each evening as you prepare traditional foods to go with your celebrations.

Festive Foods for a Chanukah Celebration

It’s difficult to imagine Chanukah without sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancakes). You can easily make variations on each of these, to keep things interesting over the eight nights of the holiday. Combine them with family-fun activities, add a few twists, and you’re good to go.

In our house, we have a different activity for each night. One night the kids put on skits. Another night we sing Chanukah songs or make Chanukah decorations. Games of spin the dreidel are played over several nights. Preparing the meal is always a part of each night.

Kid-Friendly Cooking

Making jelly doughnuts with really little kids can be a bit complicated. It’s best to have the doughnuts ready and then let them decorate. They can use blue and white icing to make Stars of David, mini-menorahs, or other Jewish symbols. You can give them stencils to form the shape with sugar or let them use frosting and go at it freehand. Too much sugar? Just stick to the jelly doughnut and add some sprinkles on top for a bit of a holiday feel.

Latkes are a lot more kid-friendly in the making. For traditional latkes, you’ll need to shred some peeled potatoes. Then add in a bit of flour, salt and pepper to taste, and an egg. (For a twist, you can use shredded courgette or sweet potato, too.) Scrunch it all up and pat it flat. Then put it in a pan with enough oil to do a good fry. Give the latkes time to cook on each side before flipping. Put them on paper towels, then transfer to a serving dish.

Some kids may be too young to do the peeling or grating. If so, then they can help with mixing the ingredients and forming the pancakes. Some families prefer to bake their latkes. Since it’s once a year, our family goes for the oil.

Apple sauce is often served with latkes. Here is a chance for all your kids to get involved. The youngest ones can use plastic knives to cut the apples into slices. These slices will go into a pot to be cooked until they are soft enough to mash into a sauce. You can add a bit of sugar and some cinnamon as well.

There are tasks for kids old enough to peel, slice, stir, and mash. You’ll also need a mini-chef to ladle the apple sauce into a serving dish. You might want to put out some sour cream as well.

Party Time

We often have a party on the last of the eight nights, celebrating Chanukah with children and the rest of the family. On that night, eight candles plus the shamash (helper) are lit. With several menorahs in the room, there’s an amazing amount of light. You can make stations for each step of the prep and let your young guests join in the fun.

At the sufganiyot table, place the doughnuts and decorating equipment. Also make sure there are plenty of moist napkins ready. For the latkes, have the older kids shred the potatoes, zucchini, or sweet potatoes. Or do this ahead for the younger kids. Set things out so even the youngest can mix and form the patties.

Apple sauce to be made? Have the apples peeled and cored. Let the kids work at the different stations to prep the potatoes for the pot. Have other kids mash the applesauce.

Make it a team effort to put everything out, buffet style. Then everyone can spin the dreidel, do Chanukah word searches, and enjoy their homemade Chanukah treats.

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