“How many days until Chanukkah?” That’s the question my son asked the day after his fourth birthday — in June!
While Chanukkah means presents to preschoolers, it’s also about celebration, candles, dreidels, latkes and more.
Our youngest celebrants know that Chanukkah is the festival of lights.
“The man lit the candle with oil and it lasted for eight days. It was only supposed to last for one,” said Sam Parven, a preschooler at B’nai Tzedek Nursery School in Potomac who explained the miracle of Chanukkah.
CHANUKKAH in the United States is celebrated by exchanging gifts. However, we’re reminded by Chloe Meyers, soon to be a 4-year-old from Potomac, “It’s not only about presents, we have to light the candles.”
The reason we light the candles dates back 2,000 years. Judah and the Macabees had been battling to regain control of the Temple in Jerusalem. Once reclaimed, Judah found only one jar of oil to relight the extinguished Eternal Light. There was only enough oil for one day. The miracle of Chanukkah is that the candle burned for eight.
"We light the candles and eat latkes," said Jenny Scheck, another 4-year-old at B’nai Tzedek.
She’s right. During the eight days of Chanukkah, Jewish families eat foods that are cooked with oil to remind them of the oil that burned for eight days. Latkes, potato pancakes fried in oil, are eaten with apple sauce, sugar or sour cream. It’s also fun to make and, of course, feast on jelly doughnuts — also cooked in oil. At B’nai Tzedek, the children make their own doughnuts with the help of parent volunteers and teachers.
Children also learn how to spin the dreidel, a top with a Hebrew letter written on each of its four sides. All the letters put together mean “A great wonder happened there.”