What Is Hanukkah?


What Is Hanukkah teaches students about the holiday, including its history. Students will discover how people celebrate the holiday both religiously and secularly. They will also learn the significance of the symbols and traditions that are a part of the holiday.

The “Options for Lesson” section of this lesson lists numerous suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the activities included with the lesson. The options for this lesson include displaying a menorah at the beginning of the lesson. A Jewish rabbi could even come speak to your class!

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What our What Is Hanukkah lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: What Is Hanukkah teaches students all about an important Jewish holiday, including its origins and how it’s celebrated today. During this lesson, students will work collaboratively with a partner to answer questions about the holiday and its history. Students will also translate some Hebrew terms into English. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to explain the religious and secular origins and traditions of Hanukkah and identify the various symbols and meanings related to the holy day/holiday. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, the materials you will need include the content pages and worksheets. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can prepare the lighted menorah image for the lesson opening, group the students for the activity, and copy all of the handouts you’ll need.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or  substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. For this lesson, one of the options is displaying a menorah at the beginning of the lesson. Students can also create an acrostic poem using the word Hanukkah. Additionally, they can invent a new Jewish game for children. You could also have a Jewish rabbi speak to your class! You can find other options for this lesson on the Classroom Procedure page.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. It notes that many of your students may not know about the religious and secular aspects of Hanukkah. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.



This lesson includes four content pages. The first section of this lesson explains the basics of the holiday Hanukkah, which people celebrate annually in November or December. Students will learn that Hanukkah reaffirms the ideals and beliefs of Judaism. It specifically commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem where Jews had risen up against their oppressors. Students will also learn that people also call Hanukkah the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication, Feast of the Maccabees, Chanukah, or Chanukkah! This section of the lesson also describes the history of the holiday in detail.

Students will learn about the Maccabean Revolt, Judea, and the king of Syria, Antiochus III. They will learn that Judaism was outlawed and that the Jewish people rebelled against king Antiochus IV when he ordered his soldiers to attack Jerusalem. They rebuilt an important altar after successfully getting rid of the king’s soldiers. The menorah in the altar only had enough oil for one night but stayed burning for eight nights, which is why people light menorahs during the holiday today. The Jewish elders then proclaimed it a miracle that deserved an eight-day festival.

Hanukkah Symbols and Traditions

The next section of the lesson describes various Hanukkah symbols and traditions. Some of these include the lighting of the menorah, which takes place during the eight days of the holiday. There is also a relay in Israel where runners carry burning torches through the streets until the last torchbearer reaches the Western Wall. Additionally, they read scripture daily. Next, it lists some nonreligious customs, such as the cooking of latkes, sufganiyot, and other holiday foods! People also sometimes give gifts, such as money and presents, or gelt, chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. They also play holiday-specific games, like the ones played with a dreidel, or 4-sided top.

Some traditions that overlap with Christmas, which takes place around the same time each year, include gift-giving and home decorating. Because the word “Hanukkah” also means “education,” Jewish educators spend the holiday educating people about the true meaning of the holiday. they say that the holiday is about Jewish resilience and perseverance. Students will then learn that more than 15 million Jews worldwide celebrate Hanukkah, which is a very old and sacred celebration that has been happening for over 2,200 years.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Judaism: the religion of most Jewish people, developed by the ancient Hebrews; considered by religious Jews to be an expression of the covenant that God established
  • Second Temple of Jerusalem: Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of it during the second century B.C.
  • Talmud: along with the Torah, one of Judaism’s ancient texts; included the oil miracle
  • Menorah: a gold candelabrum with seven branches representing knowledge and creation
  • Hanukkah: the eight-day Jewish religious celebration held each year
  • Maccabean Revolt: during the second century B.C., Jews rose up against their oppressors
  • Sukkot: a Jewish holiday that consists of seven days of feasting, prayer, and festivities
  • Rabbi: a Jewish scholar or teacher
  • Judea: known as the “Land of Israel”; came under the control of the king of Syria, Antiochus III, who permitted the Jews to live there
  • Shammash: the “servant” candle that lights the other eight candles of a menorah
  • Western Wall: the last remnant of the Temple, also known as the Wailing Wall; the end of the annual relay in Israel from Modi’in to Jerusalem
  • Psalms: sacred songs and hymns
  • Almsgiving: the practice of giving money or food to poor people


The What Is Hanukkah lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


For this activity, students will work with a group to answer questions related to Hanukkah. These questions will require students to think more deeply about the holiday and what it stands for. Prompts include questions about the role of nonreligious traditions and what students could do to help the poor people in their community. Students can work either alone or in pairs for this activity if you’d like.


Students will write questions for answers about Hanukkah. Answers that they have to write a question for include “It is considered by religious Jews to be an expression of the covenant of God established” and “Ordered his soldiers to descend upon Jerusalem in 168 B.C.”


For the homework assignment, students translate Hebrew terms, answer questions about Hanukkah, and draw a picture for a Hanukkah celebration. Some of the terms they will translate include “Judea” and “latkes.” Students will be able to use what they’ve learned during the course of this lesson to complete the homework assignment.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. No answer key is provided for the activity worksheet, as the students will all have different answers. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Social Studies, Video

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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Excellent Resource

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