In short...

Themes: The story of Hanukkah; the miracle of the oil; remembering; celebrations.

Summary: This assembly, which is suitable for an act of collective worship, focuses on the celebration of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light. Hanukkah remembers the story of Judah Maccabee and the 'miracle of the oil'.

Resources: You will need a lit hanukkiah, or a picture of one. There is also the option of playing a game of 'spin the dreidel' (see 'Suggested framework'). There is also an online dreidel game (see 'Related links').

The video

We hear about Hanukkah (Chanukah) from 11 year old Solly.

Solly shows us how his family celebrates and gives us a short history of the origin of the festival. Hanukkah means 'Festival of Lights'. It is an annual week-long celebration and one of the biggest festivals of the year for Jewish people.

The festival marks the date about two thousand two hundred years ago when the Maccabees recaptured the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and re-dedicated it to Jewish worship.

Duration: 2' 48"

End of speech: '...Happy Hanukkah! / Happy Hanukkah!'

Video questions

  • What was the name of the Jewish tribe fighting to recapture the temple? (The Maccabees - they were fighting the Greek army of King Antiochus.)
  • How much oil was left in the temple? (Enough for just one day.)
  • How long did the oil actually last? (Eight days and nights.)
  • What special food are the family making? (Latkes - a type of potato pancake.)
  • What do the markings on the dreidel mean? (The markings translate as: 'A great miracle happened there'.)
  • What do the eight lights of the hanukkiah symbolise? (The eight days and nights that the oil in the temple burned for...hence why the festival lasts for eight days.)

Key links

Assembly framework (pdf)
Picture of a hannukiah

Suggested framework

1. Entry music
Traditional Jewish music suitable for Hanukkah. Or you might consider the songs by the Jewish a capella group 'The Maccabeats' - try 'Candlelight', 'Miracle' or 'Latke Recipe' - for example.

2. Introduction
Show the children the picture of the lit hanukkiah, or light a real one if you have access to one. How do children feel looking at the flames? Count how many there are and collect any ideas they have about why someone might light this many candles at once. Ask them to keep their eyes and ears open during the video later to see what more they can learn. To play the dreidel game, if you wish: 1. Divide the hall into two halves and choose a teacher and child to represent each half of the hall. 2. Give each 'team' half of the gelt - the name for the counters / chocolate coins used in the game - putting a counter into the pot in the middle at the start of each round (or when the pot is empty). 3. Then take turns to spin the dreidel, following the instructions for how it lands and rewarding the winners when you have played for long enough. 4. The four commands are: 'nun' - don't do anything; 'gimel' - take all the counters; 'hey' - take half the counters; 'shin' - put a counter in the pot. An online search will offer several templates for making your own paper dreidel with instructions.

3. Play the video
Play the video. The duration is 2' 48". The final words are the two boys saying 'Happy Hanukkah!'

4. After the video
Use the video questions to help you to draw deeper meanings from what the children have seen: 1. What was the name of the Jewish tribe fighting to regain the temple? 2. How much oil remained in the temple? 3. How long did the oil actually last? 4. What special food were the family preparing? 5. What do the markings on the dreidel mean? 6. What do the eight candles of the hannukiah symbolise?

5. Time to talk
You could perhaps ask pupils to decide which part of the story they think was the most important for Jewish families to remember and why. What other festivals do pupils know of that involve candles / light? What makes the light special - why is it so powerful / effective?

6. Opportunity to sing
An opportunity to sing your chosen song. Suggestions from BBC collections are below.

7. Opportunity for reflection
We've been thinking today about the Jewish festival of Hanukkah...
About the fun things that Jewish families do at Hanukkah...
And about how important remembering the story of 'the miracle of the oil' is to celebrating Hanukkah...
I wonder what things you try to remember together in your family..?
What games you play and what stories you tell..?
And what fun you have..?
Think about those things for a few moments now...

8. Opportunity for prayer
Dear God.
We thank you for our families and for all the things we learn from our families at home.
Thank you for the special times we spend together, having fun, playing games or telling stories.
Help us to treasure these precious moments.

Suggested songs

Give me oil in my lamp

Give me oil in my lamp - backing track

While we live we learn (Vocal)

While we live we learn (Backing)