Hanukkah’s traditional foods, glowing candles and whirling dreidels take on a slightly different spin at public celebrations of the Jewish Festival of Lights, which begins Dec. 24 and ends Jan. 1.
At local Jewish centers, tradition is indeed observed, but the activities also include ice skating, ice sculpting, drumming, a cook-off and arts-and-crafts activities. And you don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate the Hanukkah miracle of the Maccabees’ victory against overwhelming odds, and the small cup of oil that lit the sacred menorah for eight days.
“The point of Hanukkah is really freedom of religion and the freedom of who you would like to be,” says Rabbi Eli Goodman of Chabad of the Beaches in Long Beach, which hosts one of the public celebrations, Hanukkah on Ice.
Here are public Hanukkah celebrations that combine tradition with activities that are fun for people of all faiths.
WHEN | WHERE Dec. 25, 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m., Chabad of Port Washington, 80 Shore Rd.
INFO 516-767-8672, chabadpw.org/chanukah
ADMISSION $10 ($5 advance) younger than 15; free otherwise
An afternoon of activities geared toward kids ages 1 to 12 includes a drum circle led by a professional percussionist who tells the Hanukkah story. “It’s hands-on, musical and exciting,” says Chabad of Port Washington co-director Sara Paltiel.
Kids can also participate in making a 7-foot-tall menorah from the ground up — with Lego pieces. The festivities also include a film showing, crafts, visits by Hanukkah mascots, face painting and, of course, gifts.
The Hanukkah Experience
WHEN | WHERE 3 p.m. Dec. 25 at Chabad Center for Jewish Life, 2174 Hewlett Ave., Merrick
INFO 516-833-3057 ext. 104, chabadjewishlife.org
At this crafts event, kids decorate sufganiyot — jelly doughnuts — a traditional Israeli Hanukkah treat. Adults participate in the annual latke fry-off, tasting and voting for the best-tasting homemade potato pancakes. Around 4 p.m., take a short walk to the nearby Long Island Rail Road station gazebo, where kids sing Hanukkah songs, a fire juggler performs and the public menorah is lit.
Community Hanukkah Celebration
WHEN | WHERE 2-4:30 p.m. Dec. 26, Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center, 300 Forest Dr., East Hills
INFO 516-484-1545, sjjcc.org
ADMISSION $20 per family
The center hosts an afternoon of Hanukkah family fun, including arts and crafts for the kids, and a dance party to klezmer, the music of Eastern European Jews. Kids can play in the center’s gym and pool, and march in an Israeli-style indoor Hanukkah parade. Snacks include latkes, jelly doughnuts and chocolate Hanukkah gelt.
Hanukkah on Ice
WHEN | WHERE 4:30-7:30 p.m. Jan. 1, Long Beach Municipal Ice Arena, 150 W. Bay Dr.
INFO 516-574-3905, chabadofthebeaches.com
ADMISSION $16 includes skates and dinner, $12 dinner and entry
At this annual event held on the last day of the holiday, skaters can circle the rink as a professional sculptor carves a menorah from blocks of ice.
“It’s 7-feet high and takes a few hours to make,” Rabbi Goodman says of the ice menorah, which when finished is lit with candles., Guests can munch on pizza, French fries and falafel in addition to latkes and jelly doughnuts.
Third Night Out
WHEN | WHERE 6:30 p.m. Dec. 26, Dix Hills Jewish Center, 555 Vanderbilt Pkwy.
INFO 631-499-6644, dhjc.org
ADMISSION An unwrapped gift donation for a Long Island family in need
Get in the Hanukkah spirit listening to DJ music, playing games, warming up with hot chocolate, and munching on doughnuts and pizza at the Jewish center’s outdoor candle lighting.
WHEN | WHERE Dec. 25, 2-4 p.m., Bowlmor Lanes, 2183 Jericho Tpke., Commack
INFO 631-543-3343, chabadmidsuffolk.com
ADMISSION $12 (includes shoe rental)
A menorah made from bowling pins will be lit at this Hanukkah event hosted by Chabad of Mid-Suffolk in Commack and The Chai Center in Dix Hills. Bowl to the tune of Hanukkah music, and snack on potato pancakes and doughnuts.