Teachers at the Columbia Jewish Day School last week ushered a group of excited 2-year-olds into a room full of 4,000 multicolored LEGO DUPLOS.
"Their eyes lighted up like it was Hanukkah morning," Rabbi Meir Muller, the school's director, laughed.
While the toddlers played, a group of 3- and 4-year-olds began the process of sorting the DUPLOS into piles of blue, yellow, red, turquoise and green for an even bigger project: building a 5-foot-tall menorah.
This week, elementary school students finished constructing the menorah, one of the enduring symbols of Hanukkah, just in time for the eight-day holiday that begins at dusk tonight.
Lakin Mensing, 10, said students had a blueprint to follow and then developed a system of handing off the proper colored DUPLOS.
"It's going to get glued so it won't be able to break apart," she said.
But there were a few near disasters, said Akiva Muller, as students surrounded the structure.
"I kind of grabbed it" one time as it began to topple, he said.
The completed menorah is on display at the Trenholm Road school. Tuesday, it will be moved to the Plex Indoor Sports and Ice complex in Irmo, where its candles will be lighted during a celebration.
There will be plenty of other family and public celebrations, too, during this annual Jewish festival of lights, which commemorates an ancient biblical miracle.
The story dates to the second century BCE, when the Greek-Syrians ruled over Israel and prohibited Jews from practicing their faith. Judah Maccabee and his brothers were among those who refused to worship pagan gods. They mounted a revolt, defeating the Greek-Syrians and reclaiming the second temple of Jerusalem.
In cleansing the temple for re-dedication, the Maccabee resistance fighters found enough oil to light the eternal candle for one night. But, miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days.
Thus, Jews light the menorah, a special nine-branched candelabrum, each night of the eight-day festival - one candle the first night and additional candles each successive night. The center candle, from which the others are lit, is called a shamesh.
Gifts are given and games are played in celebration of the miracle of the lights.
Although a minor holiday on the Jewish holy calendar, Hanukkah is a festive time, often coinciding with the Christian celebration of Christmas.
Children receive gifts on each night of Hanukkah, make and color menorahs, sing songs, play games and decorate treats of the season. Potato latkes are a traditional food of the season.