1. Students should be able to identify Judah Maccabee as the hero and Antiochus as the wicked king.
  2. Students should know that the story of Maccabees is the basis for the Jewish feast of Hanukkah.
  3. Students should understand the meaning behind the 8 candles of the Hanukkah menorah and the one to use to light the others.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


  1. Tell the story of Judah Maccabee and his brothers:

Church School will start a bit late today, because I’ll use my tape, “The Story of Hanukkah” to tell the story for everyone during opening exercises.

No tape? Tell the story of Judah Maccabee and Hanukkah: About 2200 years ago, Greek kings, who reigned from Damascus, ruled over the land of Judea and the Jews living there. One Greco-Syrian King, Antiochus Epiphanes, forbade the Jewish people from praying to their God, practicing their customs, and studying their Torah. Antiochus forced the Jews to worship the Greek gods. It is said that he placed an idol of the Greek God Zeus on the alter in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. In response to this persecution, Judah Maccabee and his four brothers organized a group of resistance fighters known as the Maccabees. They fought against paganism and oppression. Against great odds, after three years of fighting, the Maccabees succeeded to drive the Greco-Syrians out of Judea. Hanukkah proclaims the message of the prophet Zachariah: "Not by might, not by power, but by My spirit." The Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They cleaned the Temple, removing the Greek symbols and statues. When Judah and his followers finished cleaning the temple, they rededicated it. According to tradition, when the Maccabees entered the Holy Temple, they discovered that the Greco-Syrians had defiled the oil which was used in the Temple's menorah. Only one jar of purified oil remained, enough for only one day. It would take the Jews a week to process more purified oil. Then, a miracle occurred. The Maccabees lit the menoriah and it burned for not one, but eight days, by which time the new, purified oil was ready. This is wh the Hanukkah Menorah has eight candles (not including the shamash candle in the center used to light the others) and one reason why Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days.  

3. Service References: We sing to the Maccabees and their courage as equal to the martyrs in this Kontakion:

O, ye seven pillars of the wisdom of God,
Seven-branched lamp of the light divine.
O, most-wise Maccabees, who before the martyrs
Were martyrs most great.
With them entreat ye the God of all
That we who honor you may be saved!

4. Play with a dreidl: You can get one of these at any party store. Each letter has a meaning. Each child starts with about 20 raisins. Each puts one raisin in the center of the table. They take turns spinning the dreidl. If it lands on Nun, they get nothing. If it lands on Shin, they have to give a raisin to each player. If it lands on Heh, they get half of the raisins in the center. And if it lands on Gimel, they get all the raisins in the center and everyone puts one raisin back into the center. When you decide time is up, the child with the most raisins is the winner, and each gets to eat his raisins.

5. Discussion: Hanukkah is celebrated in late December and is often referred to as the “Jewish Christmas”. Does Hanukkah have anything to do with the birth of Jesus? Whose story is told? We left Jewish history with the return from Babylon under the Persians. But the Persians were ousted by the Greeks under the Macedonian king Alexander the Great. Alexander’s empire collapsed with his death, but the Greek influence continued in Palestine under a whole dynasty of kings, all with the same name! What was it? (Antiochus). It was Antiochus IV with whom the Maccabees had problems. What miracle occurred? How many days did the lamp in the great menorah burn? Why are there nine candles on the Hanukkah menorah? (one to light the others with)

6. Make your own dreidl: Use self-hardening clay to shape the dreidl. Engrave one of the letters on each side. Embed a spinner from a toothpick or a piece of dowel or wooden skewer. Allow to dry and enjoy! Another option: Use the paper pattern here, cut out and glue or tape together. Use a small wooden skewer through the middle. 

7. Close with prayer.