Although we call this time of year “the holidays,” it often feels synonymous with Christmas. After all, who can resist joyful music, sugary beverages and glittering lights. So, while I’m guilty of being a Christmas fanatic myself, or more accurately a Christmas culture fanatic, finding a Chanukah celebration is always a pleasant surprise. And these occasions appeal to more than just my faith. The holiday’s jubilant festivities and intriguing history can be a special experience for anyone.
If you find yourself in an unfamiliar city or looking for somewhere to bring a Jewish group, these celebrations are sure to get you into the latke-eating spirit. Hold onto your yarmulkes, the menorah’s about to get lit.
1. Latkefest, New York City
At the 9th annual Latkefest, you’ll find some seriously scrumptious potato cakes. The event showcases a variety of unique spins on the Chanukah staple. This year, it will be hosted at the Brooklyn Museum and feature a panel of celebrity judges. Proceeds also go to The Sylvia Center, a nonprofit dedicated to endorsing healthy eating habits for children. Chow down on New York’s finest and cast your vote December 18.
2. National Chanukah Menorah on the Ellipse, Washington DC
One of the largest Chanukah programs in the world, National Chanukah Menorah on the Ellipse takes place across from the White House each year. The menorah is the largest in the world and has become a symbol for light over darkness and justice over intolerance. The festival also features musical performances, menorah kits, free dreidels and traditional snacks. It will be held the first day of Chanukah this year, December 12.
3. YJP Lights and Strikes Chanukah Soiree, Los Angeles
Young Jewish Professionals (YJP) will be hosting its annual Chanukah Party at the new Lucky Strike on Hollywood and Highland on December 17. The group will mingle as they play rounds of bowling in the neon-lit lounge, giving new meaning to the Festival of Lights. The event will also feature a menorah lighting and DJ.
4. Chanukah Concert at the Chicago Botanical Gardens
The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band will perform at the gorgeous Chicago Botanical Gardens on December 17 in honor of the holiday. Both performances, one at 11 a.m. and one at 1 p.m., will feature the clarinet and violin—plus dancing is encouraged. Buy tickets in advance and save more than 10 percent.
5. Chanukah at The Yard, Miami, Florida
Chanukah at The Yard is a unique celebration, featuring live music by the Israeli band #KosherRock, along with menorah art, holiday eats and specialty drinks such as Kosher wine and craft beer. The festivities take place the second night of Chanukah, December 13.
6. Bill Graham Menorah Celebration, San Francisco
The menorah lighting celebration in San Francisco’s Union Square spans the eight nights of Chanukah, which this year will be December 12 through 20. The tradition honors the Bill Graham’s Menorah Project, which was initiated when he lit the giant “Mama Menorah” for San Francisco in 1975. Graham Menorah Day is December 17 this year. Kid’s crafts, music and memorable menorah lighting are just some of the Sunday funday plans.
7. Drinks and Dreidels at the Four Seasons Hotel in Denver, Colorado
The Four Seasons Hotel in Denver is hosting the trendiest Chanukah party in Denver, and perhaps even Colorado. Drinks and Dreidels, organized by Young Jewish Connections, is guaranteeing a good time. A ticket in includes an open bar, artisanal latke hibachi bar, appetizers, interactive menorah lighting and dreidel games.
8. Last Night of Chanukah Celebration!, Seattle
The last night of Chanukah is usually the saddest. But Seattle’s oldest congregation, Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath, is challenging that view with a Zos Chanukah (Last Night of Chanukah) blow out. Dinner is included along with bounce houses, balloon artists, bingo and prizes.