Hanukkah Gelt S'more
Hanukkah lasts eight days, eight looooong days. Gelt S’mores help keep things lively.
And today being Christmas, Gelt S’mores also help cut the post-prandial greasiness from the lunch buffet lo mein.
Ours were made with Paskesz Continue reading
Squirt the Menorah
I live in Nashville, so I’m not so much in touch with the rest of the Hanukkah carnivalling world. Is “Squirt the Menorah” a popular Hanukkah game? The only Google hits seem to be my own.
I should say “Squirt the Hanukkiyah,” but it doesn’t have the right ring to it. Menorah works fine in this case.
Now, usually, when we light Hanukkah candles, they stay lit until they go out by themselves. It’s a no-no to blow them out or extinguish them in any way. Squirt the Menorah involves shooting water pistols at a lit menorah, which sounds pretty treyf to me. But we don’t play it during Hanukkah on the really real candles, the candles upon which we’ve said the commanded blessings and all. No, we play Squirt the Menorah ahead of time, when it’s okay to extinquish the candles with a squirt gun. Odd, but okay. Continue reading
Connect 4: Gelt edition
Games and crafts should say, “touch me.” Whether in a whisper or a scream, they should entice. And what screams “touch me” like chocolate?
Here’s a variation on a classic board game perfect for Hanukkah parties, carnivals or just fun at home:
Connect 4 with real chocolate gelt.
Simple, yes? You’d think. But size matters. We all know gelt brands vary in palatability, but they also vary in diameter and width. And successive generations of Connect Four frames vary in inner dimensions. The old yellow and blue frames—some with tab and slot assembly, some with pin and hole assembly—are not created equal, and the snazzy new dark blue versions are totally different. (Any of these will do, but not the new Launchers incarnation or the travel size game.)
photo courtesy of JewishHolidaysinaBox.com
Jewish Holidays in a Box is a nifty concept: one kit per holiday with how-tos, whys and whats tucked neatly inside.
This post is a review of the newly-released Hanukkah Kit, which is the first in a series of kits from Jewish Holidays in a Box. The kit is aimed at children ages 4-10, Continue reading
my DIY PVC menorah, so far
Addendum: you want to see the revised version? Go to the newer post: PVC Menorah Kit for kids, revised.
For the synagogue’s Chanukah Carnival this year, I want to add a Build a Menorah station for kids. The goal: to assemble a menorah from bits of PVC pipe. They don’t get to keep the menorah and it won’t actually work (as in, it isn’t wired and it isn’t fire-safe for candles). No, the real goal is the process: for kids to figure out how all the pieces can fit together properly, and then to take them apart for the next person to try. They can choose to make a 7-branch Temple Menorah or a 9-branch Hanukkah Menorah (Hanukkiyah).
The new station should give the older kids something else fun to do while the little ones are busy with Dreidel Fishing and Squirt the Menorah and so forth. It will appeal to the types that love to build anything out of anything.
I bought the pipes, fittings and an awesome cutting tool that—Hallelujah—makes my hacksaw obsolete. The tool wasn’t my only surprise, as evidenced by my facebook status: Continue reading
Origami Dreidel station at the Chanukah Carnival
This is a classic design, and fairly easy to teach to little kids. It comes from Florence Temko’s book Jewish Origami (still in print).
You’ll need a square of any size paper. To teach kids, it will be easier to have a pretty large square: at least 9 by 9 if you are cutting down from a regular sheet of construction paper. Even better if you have big origami paper that is white on one side.
I used large rubber stamps for the Nun, Gimmel, Hey and Shin, and let the kids choose which letter they wanted on the body of the dreidel. You can use stickers, foam stickers, stamps made from other materials (potatoes, which would be appropriate during latke season), stencils, foam aleph-bet puzzle pieces or just free-hand it.
No matter what method, please include a visual guide showing each letter and the name of the letter. I also included what each letter stands for.
We loved making these so much we tried it with napkins and even one square of toilet paper.
The dreidels make great Hanukkah cards (unless created from toilet paper), either on their own or glued to a folded piece of paper, or you can string them as a garland as suggested on the cover of Temko’s book. We’ve also used them as placecards at dinner and as gift tags.
Temko’s design is also available online from the Origami Swami, who claims permission to present.
In the Dreidel Cookies post, I mentioned a little card attached to the cookies dressed for a bake sale. I couldn’t bear the thought that the cookies, created with such intent, might get scarfed down without the scarfer understanding what they were scarfing. The card explained the name and meaning of each letter.
Same with the little dreidel/candy gifts we brought for my son’s class. (I did cave and add one piece of gelt to the dreidel, but I’m not sure I’ll do this next year. See “Hanukkah Parent Guidelines” post.) I made a slightly different card for the dreidels.
The double-sided card, about the size of a business card, was tucked in with a new dreidel (from Target, surprisingly). It explains the 4 letters and the dreidel rules, plus the briefest of explanations about Hanukkah. Find a reproducible copy at http://www.JewishEveryday.com.
Informative, politically correct gift/info card
Despite my mentioning the use of “nuts, candy or coins” as tokens, one mom told me the next day how her son came home and wanted to play the dreidel game over and over with his brand new dreidel. They played so many games she ended up driving to Costco to buy a bunch of chocolate gelt for the “loot” (her term). While I am thrilled the little boy was thrilled with the dreidel game, I am less thrilled that boy and mom felt like chocolate money was a mandatory aspect of the game.
Again, here’s an opportunity to postpone what may be an inevitable perceived link between Jews and money. We can do this by downplaying the gelt and demonstrating the dreidel game using whatever tokens are appropriate for that group (obviously avoiding choking hazards for teeny kids and nuts for allergic kids).
The take-home message for kids and parents should be that Hanukkah is about miracles and light, not about how much gold you can win by gambling.
We made the Temple out of Duplos and experimented with different menorahs. Not hanukkiyot (hanukkah menorahs), but 7-branched menorahs like what was supposed to be in the Temple in the Hanukkah story.
Here are some examples:
Lego menorah with Lite Brite flames
Turning legos upside-down reveals the little spacer holes just right for “flames.” Had I owned enough of those teeny one-unit, columnar pieces, they could have been flames and the menorah would have been “pure” lego. But yard sales dictate what legos we own, so I made do with Lite Brite pegs. Tried red Battleship pegs, too, but Lite Brite pegs have graduated thickness and can fit into the upside-down lego holes a bit better.
Building upside-down was a pleasant challenge.
Made three sizes, overall:
we made them out of clay
We sing the song every year:
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay, and when it’s dry and ready, then dreidel I shall play.
But I’ve never actually made a dreidel out of clay, nor of anything else. Neither had my 3 year-old.
So this year we got busy.
I found a brick of oven-bake polymer clay in the clay box. (Yes, we have a clay box.) It promised to be light-weight and strong, and we would not have to sit around and watch organic clay dry.
Molding the dreidels was just trial and error. We started with a basic rectangular prism and then added a blob for the tip and a thinner blob for the handle. I’d noticed that on wooden dreidels the more rounded a tip, the more stable the spin. Pointy dreidels tend to wobble right away.
We didn’t go for spherical, but a gentle roundy-moundy. An outright spherical base spins on a tangential point, so less of the surface will touch the table. Less friction means it should spin longer. And, if most of the weight is toward the base, the low center of gravity will cause the dreidel to tip less, making the spin Continue reading
A Duplo Temple and a jar of olives.
Guidelines for Hanukkah Parent visits: where are they?
All over the country, volunteer parents are visiting their child’s classrooms and representing the entire Jewish people in 15 minutes or less.
In the spirit of “sharing traditions,” we bring a book, maybe some dreidels, some gelt (its never too early to jump-start a child’s association of Jews and money…see below), and a menorah. Hands-on parents bring all this stuff, and we check if we are allowed to actually light the menorah (and if we are allowed to keep the candles burning or blow them out far, far from the smoke detector).
Out of the dozens of books I’ve accumulated the last 16 years, plus the books I see at shul and in the library and in the bookstore (that just closed forever), why is it I can’t find a single one I LIKE? Continue reading
The adorable and sweetly-meant tshirt above illustrates the raison d’etre of this blog: what it is like to live Jewishly when 99.08 percent of the people around you aren’t Jewish. The Toddler came home with this “holiday gift,” which his teachers at daycare imagined to be a neutral, politically-correct offering. I am delighted to have it, mind you, because it is now a sacred object: it has my child’s hand and foot-print on it forever. I can never, ever get enough hand and feet prints, and if someone else does the messy work of getting them onto paper and fabric, so much the better. But, it is most definitely not neutral or politically correct. It is not a winter gift, a Frosty gift, or a holiday gift. It is a Christmas gift, and we don’t celebrate Christmas. Continue reading
Yes, during Hanukkah I made a Buche de Noel for the Teenager’s French class party. And really, it isn’t much different from the Jewish Jelly Roll tradition. Except, Jewish Jelly Rolls don’t pretend to be Christmas logs…
I am especially proud of the meringue mushrooms, oui?
After 8 days and nights, the Toddler never did figure out gelt was edible. He hoarded it, stacked it, skated on it, and shoved it behind books in every reachable bookcase, but he never realized what was beneath that shiny foil. (The dog did, however, and it is for times like this that I buy paper towels. Up came the foil, the chocolate, and other things one doesn’t like to see puddled on the kitchen floor.) Continue reading