The flickering lights of the Chanukah Menorah inspire a variety of emotions among Jews- from pride and a warm sense of belonging to sheer delight in their beauty. But for Jewish parents, they also bring a touch of worry- as little eyes and hands are drawn to them. Small children should always be watched while the menorah is still burning, but there are ways to minimize the danger of small fingers reaching the flames or knocking the menorah over. Most importantly- make sure that the menorah is lit on a stable surface. If lighting in a doorway between two rooms, or a room and a hallway, with different types of floor surfaces, you may need to place something under one side of the table you are lighting on to stabilize it. In some cases, it may be possible to place an additional table (example: a wide coffee table) on one side of the doorway to serve as a barrier to prevent children from reaching the menorah (watch to make sure they don't climb on the table, though). Keeping children busy with games and with eating a festive meal, or even just with a steady supply of doughnuts, latkes, and chocolate coins, is – as a side effect- a good way to prevent them from playing with the menorah!
Some additional fire safety tips:
- Never leave burning candles unattended.
- Do not light candles within 3 feet of: curtains (if lighting in a window, pull them as far as possible from the candles and tie them back), paper bags or loose paper, or other highly flammable material.
- Place the menorah on a metal or ceramic surface to light (such as a silver tray, or even a thick layer of tin foil).
- If the sleeves of your outfit are loose fitting, roll them up before lighting the menorah.
- If you have a cloth bracelet (woven, knitted, or crochet bracelets, for example, or those red strings people give out in Israel) either take it off or push it well back from your wrist before lighting the menorah. Make sure the bracelet and the loose strings at its end are not hanging down near the flames.
- Keep water or a fire extinguisher nearby in case anything happens.
There are other safety issues to be aware of, not only at Chanukah time but year round, which are related to the types of foods we eat this time of year.
The Home Safety Council recommends the following precautions when frying foods:
- Do not leave the stove unattended.
- Turn the handles of frying pans, etc. toward the back of the stove so that children cannot reach up and grab the handles.
- Keep dish towels, paper goods, paper bags, and curtains at least 3 feet away from the range when cooking.
- Roll up loose-fitting sleeves.
- Keep hot pans, trays, and foods away from the edge of the counter so children cannot reach them.
Have a safe and happy Chanukah!