Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights. It’s celebrated at home and in temple, but the world’s biggest menorahs are lit publicly on Hanukkah nights at the Grand Army Plazas in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Hanukkah NYC 2021
Hanukkah is Sun, Nov 28 – Dec 6. ✡️
One of the “world’s largest menorahs” is lit at Grand Army Plaza in Midtown on Hanukkah nights at 5:30pm (8pm on Sat). FREE . centralpark.com 🕎
One of the “world’s largest menorahs” is lit at Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope, Brooklyn on Hanukkah nights at various times (4pm on Nov 28). FREE . chabadparkslope.com 🕎
Hanukkah Sameach! (Happy Hanukkah!)
The Klezmatics play a “Happy Joyous Hanukkah” concert of Jewish Klezmer for the World Music Institute at Peter Norton Symphony Space on Sun, Dec 5 at 7:30pm (6:30pm doors). From $35. ✡️
Hanukkah is Hanukah is Chanukah
Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish wintertime festival of lights. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt (167 – 160 BC).
Hanukkah is also spelled Hanukah or Chanukah. The “cha” is pronounced “kha,” hence the various spellings.
The dates of Hanukkah vary with the Hebrew calendar. It is usually in December, but sometimes in late November.
The Story of Hanukkah
In the second century BCE, Jerusalem was ruled by the Seleucids,a Syrian-Greek dynasty. When the Seleucids tried to force the Jews to worship Greek Gods, a small group of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, revolted. They defeated one of the great armies of the time and reclaimed the Temple of Jerusalem.
When they went to light the Temple menorah, they found only one good jar of olive oil. The Greeks had ruined the rest. They lit the menorah anyway and began preparing new oil. Miraculously, that one-day supply lasted for eight days until a supply of new oil could be prepared.
The special Hanukkah Menorah holds nine candles. We use the center candle, the shamash (attendant), to light the others.
On the first night we light one candle. Each night we light another until all eight candles are lit. Each night we recite special blessings, sing songs, and eat fried food such as latkes with applesauce or sour cream and jelly donuts to remember the miracle of the oil. Yum!
Children play with the dreidel. It is a spinning top with four Hebrew letters on it. Children can win small gifts depending on which letter lands up when the spinning stops.
We give Hanukkah Gelt (chocolate money) to children. It’s an old tradition with multiple levels of meaning.
Hanukkah is a unique Jewish tradition in that we show our menorahs publicly.
It’s easy to trivialize Hanukkah the way Christmas has been trivialized, but it is a family and communal time of sharing and teaching who we are to the next generations.
In New York City
There are many ways to celebrate in New York City.
The World’s Largest Menorah Lighting is at Grand Army Plaza in Midtown, Manhattan and at Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope, Brooklyn (Oy Vey!).
Manhattan menorah lightings are generally at 5:30pm (Fridays 3:30pm and Saturdays 8pm).
Brooklyn menorah lightings are generally at 6pm (Fridays 3:30pm and Saturdays 7pm).