Understanding the Meaning Behind the Chanukah Blessings

Our candles burned brightly last night. The printouts from Gateways sat alongside our menorah.
Our candles burned brightly last night. The printouts from Gateways sat alongside our menorah.

The first three nights of Chanukah felt nearly tragic this year.  On Saturday night we did Havdalah and then lit the menorah. My daughter shook her head and yelled “no, no, no!” as we sang the blessings.  My husband thought it was because she was used to Shabbat and was expecting challah.  Seeing as we had some challah from the previous night left over, we offered her some.  That didn’t work. Hmph.  On night two, we were away in Washington, DC.  Our hotel lit the menorah moments before we came down to the lobby.  Therefore, I knelt down by her stroller and sang the blessings to her as we looked at the hotel’s menorah.  She protested again.  This time it was quite loud and it drew interesting looks from the other hotel guests.  Night three we were back at home and she said, “no, no, no” as I sang the blessings.  What was I going to do to get through the rest of the holiday?

Yesterday was day three of Chanukah.  I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I noticed a post from, which is the most incredible Jewish parenting website I’ve encountered, that said:

Great tips for celebrating Hanukkah for families of kids with special needs:

I clicked on it to see what the link offered.  The link led me to a page with Chanukah resources from Gateways, which is located in Boston.  There I found an illustrated version of the Chanukah blessings, which explain in English and in pictures what the blessings mean.  While this page was supposed to be for children with special needs, I found the resources to be fantastic for all kids since most could benefit from understanding a bit more about the meaning behind the blessings, songs, etc.  Therefore, I printed out the blessings pages and figured I’d prep Isabelle for the fourth night’s blessings by reviewing the pictures with her before we lit the menorah.

That idea worked like a charm.  About 15 minutes before we lit the menorah, I reviewed the pictures with her and softly sang the blessings.  She seemed to like it when I pointed to the pictures.  Therefore, once my husband came home from work, I laid the blessings out beside the menorah and pointed to the pictures as we chanted the blessings in Hebrew.  She didn’t protest.  On the fourth night of Chanukah she was content.  (Big sigh of relief.)

While Isabelle loves Shabbat and understands our Friday night rituals, I think it’s because she knows what to expect. We do it every week. When it comes to holidays we celebrate once a year, I have to do a better job of explaining the meaning behind the things we do to Isabelle and I have to make it fun.  While holiday-related art projects are nice, resources like the ones I found on Gateways‘ website are much more beneficial to me since they’ll help her understand the meaning behind the rituals.



2 thoughts on “Understanding the Meaning Behind the Chanukah Blessings

  1. Parenting….consistency…clear expectations….honesty….
    Kids EVERYWHERE, no matter what the celebration, are best if they understand what to expect! Thus, I once took my then 3 year old to a church I was not a member of 5 times before the wedding of her uncle and wanna be aunt because they expected her to be a flower girl. We practiced and we talked about the expectations….because otherwise….heavens only knows what would have happened!
    Next year, you will talk about this year and share pictures…and I am confident she will be able to remember SOME of what you are doing…..I hope the rest of the 8 days are peaceful and happy…as one of my students volunteered when she did not get to read to her mom the other night, “It’s not easy being a Jewish Momma,” and as I added softly, “Anyone’s momma.”

  2. What a great idea! We go to church every Sunday, but my daughter seems to think the routine includes some running around. I think I am going to use your idea to help her get ready for church during the week, or at least on Sunday morning before we leave the house.

    I was thinking of you girls the other day when “Shalom Sesame” was on PBS. 🙂

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