The prominent Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah, or Chanukah, officially begins on the night of Nov. 28 this year, followed by eight nights of traditional activities such as lighting the menorah, spinning the dreidel and more until Dec. 6. At various in-person events around Orange County, folks are invited to celebrate Hanukkah’s rich history and customs with menorah lightings, doughnut parties and festive music.

Hanukkah, which translates to “dedication” in Hebrew, commemorates the recovery of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with the Maccabeans’ successful revolt against the Syrian-Greek army back in the second century B.C.E. The true miracle of the holiday also explains the meaning of its eight-day run. During the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, the Jews only had enough oil to keep their menorah lit for what they thought would be one day. However, when the little oil they had lasted them for an entire eight days and granted them plenty of time to find more oil, Jewish sages declared an annual eight-day festival dedicated to this phenomenon. 

Beyond Hanukkah, the menorah, a candelebrum traditionally with seven candleholders, was used widely in ancient Jerusalem and represents some of Judaism’s most sacred beliefs. The significance of the number seven is highlighted through the menorah, symbolizing the Earth’s creation and completion. The very design of the menorah with its seven candleholders represents Judaism’s seven wisdoms, which include the knowledge of nature, the knowledge of the soul, the knowledge of biology, music, tevunah (the ability to form conclusions based on understanding), philosophy and most importantly, knowledge of the Torah.

Each night of Hanukkah, one more candle is added and lit to the menorah. Menorahs for Hanukkah have nine candle branches rather than seven, with the ninth candle (the shamash) being the lighting source of all eight other candles. 

Other Hanukkah traditions include foods fried with oil to honor the miraculous oil that kept the candles lit for eight nights. The most commonly eaten oil-based foods are latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jam-filled doughnuts). Great for groups, playing a game of spin the dreidel is also an entertaining activity many Jews participate in for Hanukkah. A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with each side displaying one of four Hebrew letters: nun (נ), gimmel (ג), hay (ה) and either shin (שׁ) or peh (פּ).

Hanukkah is a fairly minor holiday in terms of Judaism, but celebrations have grown in popularity and grandness partly because of its proximity in dates to other major holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s. Below are a few cultural events across Orange County for you to observe this high-spirited holiday.

Chanukah with the Ducks 

Where: The Honda Center, 2695 E Katella Ave, Anaheim
When: Wednesday, Dec. 1, pregame festivities begin at 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $32

Celebrate Jewish Heritage Night at the Honda Center on Dec. 1 with a heap of pre-game Hanukkah festivities perfect for the whole family. Don’t miss the menorah lighting or the chance to indulge in kosher foods and sufganiyot. The Honda Center’s parking lot will have a bounce house, dreidels to play with, live Chanukah music and street hockey.

If you’re part of a Chabad group, tickets are available at a discounted rate. Anyone who purchases one of the first 250 tickets will receive a free, special edition “Chanukah with the Ducks” t-shirt. To reserve tickets, visit jewishuci.net/ducks

Menorah Lighting at Chabad Center for Jewish Life 

Where: Chabad Center for Jewish Life, 2240 University Drive, Newport Beach
When: Sunday, Nov. 28 at 2:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Join this outdoor celebration that overlooks the Newport Back Bay and experience a traditional menorah lighting at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life. The menorah lighting will be followed by a live musical performance by the well-known Moshav Band. Crafts, face painting and balloon animals will also be available for children. Along with gifts and treats for kids, there will also be dreidels and sufganiyot to enjoy.

Unwrapped toys are also encouraged to be brought to this free event; they’ll be donated to a community toy drive. For more information, visit https://patch.com/california/newportbeach/calendar/event/20211128/1567024/outdoor-menorah-lighting-concert

Menorah Lighting at Bella Terra 

Where: 7777 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach
When: Monday Nov. 29 from 6-7:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Celebrate Hanukkah with the Chabad of South Huntington Beach this year at Bella Terra with a classic menorah lighting taking place in the Pavilion Event Plaza, near the large fountain by Solita.

Gather with others in the Jewish community to also enjoy live music by OC Klezmers, doughnuts and other refreshments. Additional entertainment includes a ventriloquist performance by Joe Gandelman and special Hanukkah crafts. The event is free to the public.

Giant Nosh Menorah at The District of Tustin 

Where: The District Tustin Legacy (in front of the movie theaters), 2437 Park Ave., Tustin
When: Monday, Nov. 29 at 5 p.m.
Cost: Free

Get ready to feast at this year’s Giant Nosh Menorah, an event sponsored by the Chabad of North Irvine. This free event celebrates all the renowned Hanukkah cuisine, which include doughnuts, gelt (chocolate coins) and latkes.

Dreidels, live music and a special performance by a children’s choir will also be featured at the Giant Nosh Menorah event. The festivities will take place at The District shopping center in Tustin in front of the AMC movie theaters. For more information, visit https://www.chabadni.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/5308422/jewish/Giant-Nosh-Menorah.htm

Crystal Henriquez is a writing fellow for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at crystalh774@gmail.com.


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