The story of Hanukkah

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. If you have explored the Diwali story you could help children make connections between them.

Resources: The assembly framework to download / print (pdf). You will also need a lit hanukkiah, or a picture of one. There is also the option of playing a whole-school game of 'spin the dreidel' (see 'Suggested framework' below). There is also an online dreidel game (see 'Related links' below).

The video

First we are introduced to Solomon and his family who are Jewish. They have visited the synagogue for Shabbat prayers and ask the Rabbi about the festival of Hanukkah.

Rabbi Sydney tells them the story of Judah Maccabee, who was victorious against the invading Greek king, Antiochus, fighting for the right for the Jewish people to worship in the temple.

When the Jewish people recover the temple they find there is not enough oil to keep the menorah burning while they make more oil. But, by a miracle, the tiny amount of oil lasts for eight days. The festival of Hanukkah - and the customs associated with it - is based on this story.

Duration: 3' 46"

End of speech: '...and helped Eliza tell the story of Hanukkah to his mum and dad.'

Video questions

  • Where do Solomon and Eliza go every Saturday? (The synagogue)
  • How long does Hanukkah last and what happens each night? (The festival lasts for eight days - and each night a new candle is lit on the hanukkiah / menorah)
  • What does King Antiochus say the Jewish people must do? (Worship Greek gods - so the reading of the Jewish holy book, the Torah, is banned)
  • What do the Greek soldiers do to the temple? (They smash everything - including the special holy lamp)
  • Who fights back against the Greeks and what does their family name mean? (The Maccabees - their family name means ‘hammer’)
  • What is the 'miracle of the temple'? (That one bottle of oil lasts for eight days - exactly the time needed to make more oil for the sacred lamp)

Key links

Assembly framework (pdf)
Picture of a hanukkiah

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.

3. The video
Play the video. A short introduction to Solomon and his family is followed at 1' 13" by the story of Hanukkah. The final words are: '...Solomon jumped up and helped Eliza tell the story of Hanukkah to his mum and dad.'

4. After the video
Use the story questions to help you to draw deeper meanings from what the children have seen.

5. Time to talk
Recap what children have learnt about the festival of Hanukkah from the video - you could perhaps ask them to decide which part of the story they think was the most important for Jewish families to remember and why.

6. Time 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

Song: 'Give me oil in my lamp' (Come and Praise, no 43. Vocal version)

'God is watching over you' (All about our school, no 7)

'All together as a family' (All about our school, no 15)

SongCollectionSignificant words
'Christmas Time'Come and Praise: Beginning, no 47Change first line to 'Hanukkah is here' and omit Verse 2
'Clap hands'Come and Praise: Beginning, no 57Change second line to 'Now it's Hanukkah'
'There's a light that's shining'Come and Praise: Beginning, no 49'Making the world seem warm and bright'
'Celebration rap'Come and Praise: Beginning, no 7'Come and shout for joy'