On December 24th, Jews around the world will begin observing Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. For eight consecutive days, the Jewish community will light candles, eat traditional foods such as potato latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), spin dreidels, sing favorite songs, and exchange gifts.
By eating oil-laden foods and lighting candles, they will be commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C.E. and will also be remembering the Maccabees who obtained religious freedom from their Greek-Syrian oppressors.
Most will observe Jewish traditions with their families at home. A smaller percentage will join together at community-sponsored events. Chanukah sing-a-longs and concerts, menorah making workshops, arts and crafts activities, baking and cooking demonstrations, special performances, and public candle lighting services will draw young and old together.
Here’s a sampling of how Jews are celebrating Chanukah around the world this year.
In Washington, D.C. the annual lighting of the National Chanukah Menorah will occur on the Eclipse (across from the White House) on Sunday, December 25 from 3:00 – 5:30 pm ET. General admission is free, but an online ticket request is required. Donations to the National Menorah Council are welcome. Participants will receive free dreidels, menorah kits, hot latkes and doughnuts. Live performers will add to the festive spirit.
Chicago will have a Chanukah concert at the Chicago Botanic Garden on December 29. The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band will perform two one-hour concerts at the Alsdorf Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased online in advance and include a visit to Wonderland Express.
Jewish kids soaking up the sunshine in Miami can stop into the Jewish Community Center for its Kite Festival. On December 26, participants can make holiday decorations, create kites, play organized sports activities, and munch on Israeli food.
The Jewish community in Philadelphia will gather for a Chanukah party and menorah lighting at the Ethical Society/Rittenouse Square from 4-6 on December 27. Families can dabble in arts and crafts and be part of an interactive performance by Lolly & YoYo.
During the morning of December 25, kids can work together to build Denver’s largest Lego Menorah at Legoland. This family centered activity will also include entrance to a jumping castle, an assortment of Lego activities and games, and the chance to meet Lego Maccabee Man. Participants can decorate their own doughnut and eat a dairy meal that includes hot latkes.
San Francisco’s Union Square is where a 25-foot tall mahogany menorah will be lit. Rock concert promoter, Bill Graham, initiated this annual event decades ago. For a complete list of activities check this website.
Canada’s tallest menorah will be lit at Vancouver’s Central Library on Sunday, December 25. Live music will entertain guests who will also be treated to hot cocoa, latkes, and doughnuts.
The menorah at the Western Wall (Kotel) will be lit in a public ceremony every night at 16:30. Visitors can also walk through the nearby Jewish Quarter of the Old City to see menorahs displayed in homes.
Jerusalem also hosts the Hamshushalayim Festival, s series of free cultural events on four December weekends.
In Haifa, religious diversity is celebrated with an annual event called Holiday of Holidays. Special cultural events at museums, galleries and theaters are scheduled almost every day of the month.
Other Places Around the World
Russians oftentimes brave sub zero Moscow weather when they trudge over to Teatralnaya Square near Red Square for the annual menorah lighting.
European Jews also have public candle lightings near notable landmarks.
Here are a few examples…Londoners go to Trafalgar Square while Jews in Berlin gawk at Europe’s largest menorah while standing near Brandenburg Gate. Parisians find themselves in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
In Australia, Jews can be seen lingering near the Sydney Opera House. La Plaza Republica Oriental del Uruguay is where thousands have gathered in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
A simple Internet search will reveal a more complete list of Chanukah community activities and candle lighting events.
If you could go anywhere in the world to observe the lighting of a Chanukah menorah, which city would you choose?