The holiday season is fast upon us, and while some of you may be shopping for Christmas presents, others of you may be deciding which way you want to spell “Hanukkah” this year while you’re brushing up on the rules of dreidel and the lyrics to the Hebrew song Maoz Tsur.
For those not in the know: Hanukkah, or “dedication” in Hebrew, is a Jewish high holiday celebrating the miracle of a long-burning menorah. It is also known as the “festival of lights” and has a variety of different spellings. It takes place this year from December 24, 2016 until January 1, 2017. The holiday began when Jewish freedom fighters in Israel known as Maccabees began opposing encroaching Syrian Greek imperialists known as Seleucids. This conflict ended three years later and the victorious Maccabees reclaimed their stolen Holy Temple. In order re-dedicate the temple in the Jewish tradition, they needed to burn candles in a menorah (a type of linear candelabra) for eight days. Sadly, they only had enough oil for one day. However, the miraculous little candle lasted the necessary eight, and the Hanukkah holiday was born to celebrate this unlikely achievement.
Here are our top 4 favorite Hanukah celebrations in the U.S.
Every year Chabad of Brooklyn hosts the World’s Largest Menorah, a tradition begun outside The Plaza Hotel in Park Slope. Nightly lightings illuminate the 32-foot tall menorah in next to Grand Army Plaza starting around 6 or 7 p.m. and will be accompanied by celebratory fried goods such as latkes and donuts. Music will be played and gifts will be passed around as well. Other Hanukkah festivities take place throughout the city, notably on and around Columbia University.
Chattanooga puts a chilly spin on the festival of lights by hosting “Chanukah on Ice!” The event takes place on December 10th, 2016 from 5-7 p.m. at the outdoor skating rink Ice on the Landing. The menorah lighting will happen at 6 p.m. Snacks (of the kosher variety) will be served and there will be a raffle. It costs $10 to use the rink, including skates, but the lighting is open to the public.
The 37th Annual South Florida Chanukah Festival in Hallandale takes place on December 27th, 2016 at 7 p.m. in the Gulfstream Racing and Casino Park. The festival, put on by Chabad of South Broward, is designed the draw attention to The Friendship Circle, an organization designed to help children with special needs. General admission is free, but VIP and box seats for around $100. The festivities will include lighting Florida's largest menorah, as well as offering free gelt (chocolate coins) and other prizes. Additionally, there will be live music by Avraham Fried and the 8th Day. Miami Beach also has several large Hanukkah activities if you are in Florida but not near Hallandale.
The lighting of The National Chanukah Menorah will take place on Decemeber 25, 2016 at 4 p.m. Tickets are free but are necessary to obtain entrance. Gates will open at 3:15 p.m. for those who arrive early. A kid-friendly event, the sponsoring National Menorah Council will provide dreidels and menorah kits. Come hungry because piping hot donuts and latkes will be served as well. The smell of these fresh treats will probably waft straight through the White House windows, seeing as the event takes place just across the street.
This article was written by Lindy Tolbert.