How to Help Young Children Embrace the Spirit of Hanukkah

The miracle, of course, was not that the oil for the sacred light – in a little cruse – lasted as long as they say; but that the courage of the Maccabees lasted to this day: let that nourish my flickering spirit.
– Charles Reznikoff, American poet (1894-1976), in “Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays”

How do you get into the spirit of Hanukkah?

Although Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday, retailers are shoring up their blue and white merchandise and creating ever-larger displays alongside their green and red displays. (Never mind that many seem to think matzah and seder plates are part of the picture. Spoiler alert: they aren’t.) Whether you’re an all-out-decorate-the-house kind of person or prefer quieter planning focused on spiritual, intellectual, or culinary facets of the holiday, Hanukkah is full of lessons and important themes to share with family and friends of all ages.

Will you tell the tale of lamp oil miraculously lasting eight nights instead of only one, or the miracle of the few winning over the many?

Will you celebrate with oily foods from around the world or reflect upon how we can each be a light in dark times?

How can you, as a parent, also infuse this holiday time with meaning and the Jewish values important to you?

Whatever you decide, there’s probably a BimBam video for that.

Hosted by ReformJudaism.org, BimBam’s animated videos spark connections to Judaism through compelling and engaging digital storytelling – directed toward kids, parents, and educators.

BimBam’s array of educational videos are creative, fun, and accessible for learners of every age with relevant and exciting material that celebrates the digital world in which we live. These are  videos we want to watch – whether we’re diving into Jewish learning for the first time or consider ourselves lifelong learners.

We worked with Susan Cosden, RJE, the director of lifelong learning at Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun in Milwaukee, WI, to identify several BimBam videos that are particularly appropriate for the Hanukkah season.

1. Enjoying Hanukkah Foods

Different foods – all deep fried in oil – are eaten to celebrate Hanukkah in different parts of the world. Along with latkes from Eastern Europe, sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) are a traditional Hanukkah treat in Israel. This BimBam video of how sufganiyot are made will thrill fans of the Great British Bake Off! If you’re digging deeper in your quest for Hanukkah foods around the world, check out this BimBam video about how to make pakoras, which offer a delicious taste of India.

2. Focusing on Hanukkah Heroes

If you want to focus on “Hanukkah heroes” or the midah (Jewish value) of ometz lev, courage, BimBam’s “Shaboom” video series – which includes “Teaching Children about Courage (Ometz Lev)” – for children from ages 4-7 and families of young children is a great choice.

3. Cultivating Presence

Presents are a popular part of Hanukkah for many families. Perhaps you’d like to explore how this holiday can help you cultivate a different kind of presence – and be the best person you can be. This BimBam video for adults and older kids explores a wide range of traditions, history and themes related to Hanukkah. It just might spark a new way to think about refueling and rededicating yourself.

By the way, if you are looking for an answer to the question “Why is Hanukkah early/late this year?” BimBam offers one in this video about the Jewish calendar.

Watching these videos creates space for you and your children to talk about how to embrace the spirit of Hanukkah, inspired by our Jewish values. Whatever your family’s focus on Hanukkah this year, may it be a joyous eight days – full of light and love. Chag sameach.

Check out our “Hanukkah Family Activities” for additional videos, games, music, and more to make your Hanukkah celebration the best one yet.

Stephanie Fink is the associate director of Engaging Families with Young Children, part of the Union for Reform Judaism's Strengthening Congregations initiative.