Guide to Hanukkah in Washington, D.C.: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

2015 National Menorah lighting
Ted Eytan/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and is celebrated for eight nights and days in late November-December. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is observed by lighting candles on the nine-branched menorah, one additional light on each night of the holiday. The Washington, D.C. area has a sizable Jewish population and there are many special events around the region to celebrate the holiday. Here is a guide to the most popular events for this year.

The 2018 holiday is December 2 to December 10.

National Menorah Lighting

Celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah with speeches, music, activities for kids and the lighting of the National Menorah by Rabbi Levi Shemtov. The annual ceremony takes place on the Ellipse, just across from the White House, and is attended by thousands every year (and watched by tens of millions on broadcast TV). This event is free, but tickets are required. It will be held on Sunday, December 2, 2018 at 4 p.m.

Family Hanukkah Concert

Celebrate Hanukkah with a Tot Havdalah and concert with Alan Goodis. Goodis is a famous musician known for playing Jewish music and having an incredible family-friendly performance, perfect for the holiday. The concert will be held on Saturday, December 1, 2018 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center.

Miss Ellie's Hanukkah Songfest

Ms. Ellie Music will perform the story of Hanukkah through songs and dance in a program that kids ages four to 10 will love. The concert will be held at the National Theatre on December 1 from 11 a.m. to noon and tickets are free.

Bender JCC Chanukah Celebration

The second night of Chanukah is a party at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville. There will be a candle lighting ceremony with fun activities including family gym, story time and crafts, and treats like latkes and donuts. There's an open gym too. Tickets: $5 per family.

Chanukah Festival in Alexandria

Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington sponsors a Menorah Lighting, dreidels, lakes, and donuts.

Chanukah on Ice

This special event is centered around an ice menorah carving show, menorah lighting, and ice skating. It is held in early December from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Pentagon Row Ice Rink in Arlington, VA. Tickets cost $10 per person, including skate rentals. Chanukah on Ice is hosted by Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington.

Village at Leesburg Hanukkah Celebration

An hour northwest of Washington, D.C. you'll find the cute town of Leesburg, VA. During Hanukkah the town puts on its own celebration in the Village Plaza and includes a donation drive for Toys for Tots. The Hanukkah party will be held on December 9, 2018 from 4 p.m to 5 p.m. It involves a ceremony with Rabbi David Greenspoon of Congregation Sha’are Shalom.

Matzo Ball

The young Jewish set love this annual Hanukkah party, organized by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals. Matzo Ball (now on its 32nd year) is the nation's leading Jewish singles event and will occur on December 24, 2018 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets start at $30. It started more than three decades ago after a group of Jewish friends realized there was nothing for them to do on Christmas Eve, so they decided to throw their own party. Today, Matzo Ball is held in eight cities around the country.