SPRING HILL — There was a buzz of activity at Temple Beth David on Sunday as congregants of all ages participated in activities in preparation for Hanukkah.
The holiday, which began at sundown Friday, lasts for eight days and commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 164 BC.
While a menorah — a candelabrum with seven branches — is used throughout the year, a special menorah with nine candles, called a chanukiah, is used during Hanukkah.
About 15 children gathered at tables in the social hall to create their own chanukiahs by pasting pasta tubes as candles and white beans as branches of the lamp stand onto a piece of paper. Pieces of red crepe paper were rolled and stuck into the "candles" to symbolize flames.
Because tradition dictates that one candle is lit each evening, teacher Debi Wolfe let the children choose whether to "light" each of their pasta candles or take the crepe paper home and add to their chanukiahs each night.
Wolfe explained to the children that each menorah can be different in design, but that it is of great importance for the center candle, the shamash, which is used to light the other candles each night, be higher than the others.
"Jewish people believe helpers are really, really important," she told the children. "The shamash is the helper, so it has to be higher."
Lynn Budnick and Renee Levin also helped the children, who were intent about their work.
"It's fun, but it's hard work most of all," said Rose Leventhal, 8, who was trying to get her chanukiah to her liking.
"I like that it goes upwards," said Brett Labella, 10, about the shamash on his paper.
Alyssa Kemper, 9, liked using beans and pasta for the project, a change from previous years.
She was also sure her mother would like the craft projects of her and her brother, Aaron, 7.
"I'll show my mom, and she'll probably say, 'Wow, you did a good job. It's amazing.' And she'll say that about my brother's, too."
As the children made their craft projects, Jill Pfluke, one of the co-principals of the temple's religion school, played songs on her violin as the children sang along.
One favorite is called My Dreidel and tells about the top-like toy that children use during Hanukkah to play games and win treats.
"Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel," sang Rabbi David Levin as he brought two handfuls of small, wooden dreidels and dropped them on the work tables for the children to play with as he asked them to count them with him in Hebrew.
The teenage children, who will also be sending Hanukkah cards to a home for the disabled in Israel, worked patiently, helping the younger ones with their crafts. Andrew Ercolano, 12, spent time helping the younger students and making his own chanukiah.
"I'm in both groups," Andrew said. "I usually make a menorah with my mom every year."
He said he was looking forward to his bar mitzvah next year, which will be at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
In another room, Karla Zagar guided the smaller children, ages 3 to 5, in wrapping presents they had bought for the rabbi to give to needy children for Hanukkah.
"The children did tzedakah" or charity," Zagar said. "They began in September, saving their money to buy the presents. They chose a doll for a girl and a Transformer for a boy."
As the children worked on their projects, several adult women were making latkes, a traditional Hanukkah food item, that would later be served, along with applesauce, to the children.
Latkes, which are potato pancakes cooked in oil, are made as a reminder of a cruse of oil that was miraculously preserved at the temple rededication.
Rhonda Phillipson, who was busy peeling and cutting onions, was enjoying the activity and the camaraderie.
"My mother was such a wonderful cook, but I never watched her," Phillipson said. "Now I'm going to learn."
Toward the end of the morning, the rabbi asked one of the helpers, Brittany Finley, 13, to explain the meaning of Hanukkah.
"It was when the temple was destroyed and rebuilt by the Macabees," Brittany said. "They had just a little oil to light the lamp, but it lasted for eight days."
The meaning of the holiday was not lost on even the younger children.
"It's fun," Alyssa said about the holiday. "We do all sorts of prayers, and when we have a dreidel, we're allowed to spin it."
Pfluke said she hopes the morning's activity will be meaningful to the children.
"I'm hoping by participating in things like this that it will imbed the culture and give them an appreciation for their religion and their heritage," she said.