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

Menorah on the Mall in Washington, D.C

 Walter McBride/Contributor/Getty Images

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 2019 holiday is December 22 to December 30.

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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.

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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. In 2018, tickets were $36 per family.

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JCC Chanukah Celebration

The Jewish Community Center celebrates the holiday with a variety of events. In 2018, it kicked off with an around-the-world dinner of treats like Russian apple latkes; palacinka (Hungarian crêpes); Indian sweet potato curry-cumin pancakes with mango; Israeli sufganiyot; Syrian Ijeh b'samak; Mexican "melted" hot chocolate; and more. There were also vegetarian options, such as lentil-scallion pancakes with cumin cream; root vegetable latkes; wild mushroom risotto cakes; and spinach pancakes with cardamom. The rest of the week, there were game nights, gatherings, and candle-lighting parties.

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Chanukah Festival in Alexandria

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

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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.

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Matzo Ball

The young Jewish set love this annual Hanukkah party, organized by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals. Matzo Ball is the nation's leading Jewish singles event. 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.

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