Home for the Holidays: DIY Chanukkah

Nov 26, 2018 by

Home for the Holidays: DIY Chanukkah

Your children are actively anticipating Chanukkah, and you want to harness their enthusiasm for Judaism at every opportunity. After all, you have a degree from HUC-JIR. You are deeply invested in getting them to feel personal ownership over their tradition. And you spent way too much time on Pinterest when you had bronchitis after Yom Kippur. You’ve totally got this.

Plan A:

Materials:

  • 4 cups of candle wax
  • Double boiler, in which you really, really do not care about the inner pot
  • 44 weighted wicks (you can use cotton string, weighted with nuts, or prepared wicks)
  • Tall, thin mason jar (any heat-proof jar that you can easily replace will do)
  • Long wooden stick; a skewer will do (for mixing wax)
  • Large bowl you hate, filled ¾ of the way up with cold water
  • Large drop cloth
  • Aluminum foil

Instructions:

  1. Open up the wax; ask your children to touch the wax. In an attempt to tie this into the second child’s science unit, note how the wax is currently a solid but that we are going to turn it into a liquid and then back again. Ask: What observations can you make? Try to come up with an answer as to why the wax “smells like a movie theater.” Re-evaluate which movie theater you go to.
  2. Heat the water in the outer double-boiler pot, while your children “negotiate” measuring out four cups of wax into the inner pot. Remind yourself that practicing conflict resolution is an important life-skill.
  3. Place inner pot into the outer pot. Gently warn the children that the outer pot is hot. Allow children to take turns stirring wax using a long wooden skewer, because your touchstone on practical parenting, Dr. Wendy Mogul, said reasonable risk-taking is important for raising resilient, self-reliant people. Hold your breath to prevent yourself from panic-screaming, “DO NOT TOUCH THE OUTER POT; IT IS SUPER HOT!”
  4. As wax finishes melting, place bowl of cold water and mason jar close together on drop-cloth covered surface. Show children which end to dip into the wax; make sure that they are holding their wick from the top. Gently reemphasize that the wax is hot. Mentally spiral about wax heat and risk-taking. Remind yourself what Dr. Mogul said. Remind yourself that lighting candles in dark times is an important commandment that brings joy, gratitude, and inspiration. Remind yourself that you are pretty positive that Irving Greenberg said, “As long as Hanukkah is studied and remembered, Jews will not surrender to the night. The proper response, as Hanukkah teaches, is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle.” Remind yourself that you want your children to feel ownership over their engagement with Judaism. That Judaism is this beautiful, messy practice that makes your life, the lives of all of those who came before you, and the lives of your children more meaningful. And, remind yourself that if the tutorial lady from YouTube can do this, so can you.
  5. Pour the wax into the mason jar. Take turns dipping wick from wax-filled mason jar into cold water. Repeat until candle reaches desired width, then place on aluminum foil to finish cooling. Note how the change of temperature makes the wax change from a liquid to a solid, neatly tying all of this back into that science unit. Admire that the four-year-olds only want to make squat candles that will never fit into any hanukkiyah/menorah. Declare that those will be used as Shabbat candles. Resort to Plan B.

Plan B:

Materials:

  • Beeswax sheets (cut into 4 inch by 3 inch strips) and cotton string (cut into 4.5 inch pieces)
  • Or just a kit like this one

Instructions:

  1. Lay the cotton wick lengthwise, making sure that the excess all sticks out one side. Roll.
  2. Listen to children as they comment how much easier, less messy, and more beautiful this candle-making process is. Acknowledge their feelings. Make a mental note that simplicity is important, and maybe you should spend a little less time on Pinterest next time you’re sick.

Rabbi Lauren Ben-Shoshan, M.A.R.E., lived in Tel Aviv, Israel until recently, and now resides in Palo Alto, California with her lovely husband and their four energetic and very small children.

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