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Celebrating Hanukah Across the Country

by Irvina Lew

Dec 21, 2019

Rafael Ben Ari | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

Hanukah, Chanukah, Hanukkah … whatever the English spelling, the word translates to “dedication,” and remembers the rededication of the Holy Temple after a small band of Jews recaptured it from the Greeks.


The story of Hanukah, also called the Festival of Lights, recalls the miracle when a one-night supply of oil lasted for eight nights. These days we celebrate by lighting and blessing candles, adding one for each of the eight nights on a Menorah, an eight-pronged candelabra. The historic festival features latkes, or potato pancakes, fried in oil and usually served with applesauce and sour cream.


Family fun includes singing holiday songs, playing with a dreidel (four-sided spinning top) and giving gelt (money), including chocolate coins. Hanukah dates change annually on our calendar, but is always celebrated on the 25 Kislav on the Hebrew calendar. This year, the first night falls Sunday, Dec. 22 and continues through Dec. 30.


Here are some Hanukah events in four major U.S. destinations.


Washington, D.C. 

The National Menorah lighting takes place Dec. 22., at the Ellipse 3:15–5:45 p.m., although the free event requires pre-registration. After, there’s Chanukah on Ice at the Pentagon Mall 6–8:30 p.m., and daily ice skating at Georgetown Harbor, 10 a.m.–10 p.m., just a five-minute walk from The Watergate Hotel. The Watergate offers three- to seven-night holiday packages for families with children younger than 18. The holiday promotion includes connecting rooms, a Kosher wine flight, tasting for two adults and in-room amenities: A bottle of Kosher olive oil; Kosher, nut-free chocolate gelt for kids; an Electric Menorah; and The Story of Hanukkah by David Adler, which includes dreidel instructions and a latke recipe. When booked in advance, a private car may be available for transport to/from the National Zoo or National Mall.


Beverly Hills, California

A significant holiday celebration of Celebrating Light, Unity and Liberty! takes place at the Beverly Canon Gardens at Montage Hotel Dec. 22. In coordination with JEM Community Center of Beverly Hills, the free event includes a Menorah Lighting ceremony (4:30 p.m.), gifts for every child; music and entertainment; food, including hot latkes and donuts, particularly popular in Israel for the holiday; face painting; and raffles.


San Diego, California

At the iconic Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton, there’s a sundown menorah lighting in the hotel lobby 4:30–5:30 p.m., for the eight holiday nights, Dec. 22–Dec. 29. The Del, which dates from 1888, is one of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre: the wooden Victorian beach resort. The legendary beachfront hotel, where director Billy Wilder filmed his classic comedy Some Like It Hot, is also the rare setting for Skating by the Sea, a seasonal ice skating rink adjacent to the ocean. A special skating session, a Menorah lighting and Chanukah treats hosted by the Chabad of Coronado take place Dec. 26, 5–7 p.m.


New York, New York

One of the world’s largest Hanukkah menorahs is the 32-foot-high, gold-colored, 4,000-pound steel holiday icon on display in Grand Army Plaza across the street from The Plaza hotel, on Fifth Avenue near 59th Street across from Central Park. The lighting ceremony for the Jewish Festival of Lights takes place before sundown Dec. 22. This major Manhattan menorah actually vies for the size competition with one in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, across the East River, where the celebration starts with a pre-lighting concert, offering music and potato pancakes each evening.


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