The word Chanukah (also spelled Hanukkah) means dedication. The Jewish festival commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after a long and brutal fight more than 2,000 years ago. According to Jewish tradition, the vial of pure oil used for the ceremony was supposed to burn for only one day, but it miraculously lasted eight days.
The National Jewish Committee on Scouting’s Chanukah Program Helps guide provides activities suitable for campouts, unit meetings, den meetings or any observance at a religious institution.
The document, created by Rabbi Rachmiel Tobesman, a volunteer with the Baltimore Area Council, and further developed by the committee, is a treasure trove of activities suitable for families with kids of all ages.
Depending on how much time you want to spend, there are activities that range from fun, simple crafts, to more elaborate undertakings that really dig deep into the history of Chanukah.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Cut-up story game
Make two typewritten copies of a Chanukah story. (There’s one included in the PDF you can use.) Cut up one copy into as many parts as desired. Give one part to each player and keep a complete copy for yourself. The first part of the story is marked so that the participant holding that part begins to read aloud. The other players must listen carefully to determine when it is their turn to read. Since you have a copy of the complete story, you can check all mistakes.
A variation on the usual dreidel game is one in which a record is kept of the time in which the dreidel remains in motion when spun. The player who can spin it for the longest period in a predetermined number of tries is declared the winner. It may be required that the dreidel spin within a given area, say, a circle about 2 feet in diameter.
A Chanukah connection game
A carton is filled with items that have a connection to Chanukah such as an olive, wick, a hammer. Each player gets a chance to pull out an item and tell how it connects to Chanukah.
Chanukah gelt treasure hunt
Pennies or nickels are hidden in various parts of the room, apartment or building in which the treasure hunt takes place. The treasure may also include a cruse (small bottle) of oil, a dreidel, menorah and box of candles. A limited time is allowed for the participants to search for the Hanukkah gelt. Each one keeps whatever treasure he finds.
Mattathias and Antiochus says
The leader issues orders to the participants standing in a row. He commands them to perform various acts, such as, “kneel,” “follow me,” “at ease,” or “stand at attention.” Each order is prefaced with either “Mattathias says” or “Antiochus says.” The orders of Mattathias are to be obeyed while those of Antiochus are ignored. Whoever fails to respond correctly and promptly is eliminated from the game.
Perfect for a den meeting or family gathering
In addition to fun games and activities, the program guide offers suggestions on Chanukah parties, decorations, songs and skits, along with printable puzzles and crafts. There’s even a section on special food you can prepare just for the occasion.
Check out The National Jewish Committee on Scouting’s website for more valuable information.