When the Beatles came up with the song, “Eight Days a Week,” it’s a safe bet that they didn’t have Chanukah in mind. No matter — with lyrics like, “Eight days a week/is not enough to show I care” and “Eight days a week/I love you,” there isn’t a song unintentionally better suited to the holiday than this one.
In fact, after surveying the surfeit of holiday-themed things to do for this year’s Chanukah, you may find yourself thinking that the only way you and your loved ones will be able to put a dent in the events list is with a little help from your friends. OK, now that that’s out of our system, here are a few of our favorite picks for the holiday, broken down by day.
DAY 1: Dec. 8
There is no shortage of things to do on the first night of Chanukah, but few of them are as impressive as the annual March of Lights, billed by sponsor Lubavitch of Greater Philadelphia as “the world’ largest car menorah parade.” Beginning at the intersection of Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 22nd Street at 7:00 p.m., the parade wends its way down to the corner of Fifth and Market Streets, by the National Museum of American Jewish History, where there will be live music with Eli Marcus, sufganyot, goodie bags for the kids and more. If you would like to participate in the parade, call 215-725-2030 to order your own hood Chanukiyah.
If you’re looking for a little more physical activity, you can join the participants at Chanukah on Ice, taking place at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees. This Chabad Lubavitch of Camden and Burlington Counties event will sport a giant ice menorah, hot latkes and crafts, all starting at 7:00 p.m.
DAY 2: Dec. 9
Even if Jewish Exponent features editor Michael Elkin hadn’t written it, we would still be spotlighting the new play, JM Flamethrower, which will have its inaugural performance at Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park at 1 p.m. It’s not every day that we see the premiere of a new Chanukah play. As director Neill Hartley, a veteran Philadelphia stage presence, explains, what makes JM Flamethrower such a must-see is that “it tells the story of how Chanukah came to be in a fun, entertaining way — that is also educational, but not in a trite way.” Judah Maccabee (the play’s “JM”) is sent every year to the home of a family in need of being schooled on the finer points of the festival of lights. This year, he visits with a 12-year-old boy and his parents in Santa Monica. While fireworks may not ensue, there will plenty of flames thrown.
To make sure you’re properly fueled up after the flamethrowing and before the festivities at Rodeph Shalom (see below), be sure to stop first at the 10th annual Latkepalooza, taking place at the Gershman Y in Center City from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to sampling the best in latkes of all styles and substances from the likes of Audrey Claire, Citron and Rose, Miss Rachel’s Pantry and Talula’s Garden (to name just a few of the participants), you can dance to the music of the West Philadelphia Orchestra, and your kids can bop to a performance by Monkey Jungle.
For Bucks residents who want to show their Chanukah spirit, Lubavitch of Bucks County will host its annual Chanukah Parade, starting at 4:30 p.m., on State Street in Newtown. In addition to the marching bands, floats and menorahs, there will be plenty of music, latkes and other refreshments, as well as childrens’ crafts.
Among the numerous celebrations being held at synagogues in the area, one of the most multidisciplinary will be at Rodeph Shalom, where “Sharing Our Light Together” will start at 5:30 p.m., with a shuk complete with vendors, holiday foods and gift ideas for the last-minute shoppers. Following the candle-lighting ceremony, Israeli musician Mika Karni will take the stage with her band. There will also be post-concert Israeli music and dancing with Rak-Dan. The event is co-sponsored by PhillyIsrael, Rodeph Shalom, Consulate of Israel in Philadelphia, The Israeli House, Temple Students for Israel. Collaborative, Renaissance, Moishe House Philadelphia and Reform Jewish Community
DAY 3: Dec. 10
Ardmore will be the site of some public Chanukah activity. Chabad of the Main Line is sponsoring a car menorah parade starting at 5:00 p.m. from its center to Suburban Square (near the Apple Store). Then it is hosting a Pajama Party that includes a menorah lighting at 5:30 p.m., a ventriloquist show at 6:00 p.m. and plenty of dreidels, donuts and milkshakes.
DAY 4: Dec.11
The Jewish Federation of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties will pull out all the stops when they kick off their annual Chanukah Celebration at 6:00 p.m. at the historic Garton Road Shul near Deerfield Township.
So, this may not be strictly Chanukah, but it could make a great gift. If you’ve got a certain special someone in your life of a certain age, wouldn’t they just plotz at the chance to spend time with Dr. J, live and in the flesh? Then grab yourself a few tickets to hear Julius Erving, the man behind the 76ers’ last world championship, speak at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, starting at 7:30 p.m. Includes a raffle of autographed basketballs for enhanced gift-giving capabilities.
DAY 5: Dec. 12
You can never get the kids started too early when it comes to learning about the Jewish holidays. That’s why jkidphilly, part of Jewish Learning Venture, has programmed so many events during Chanukah, including a Playdate at Granite Run Mall. Starting at 10:00 a.m. in the Sears Court, toddlers, pre-K kids and their drivers can partake in sufganyot, storytime and Chanukah craft-making, all organized by Lori Rubin, the director of family engagement at JLV.
DAY 6: Dec. 13
Jkidphilly offers you and your child the opportunity to explore one of the newest tea houses/concert spaces in the area when they host the latest edition of their Making Connections program at New Leaf Club in Bryn Mawr. Starting at 4:30 p.m., you can groove to the holiday harmonies of Mama Mac, as well as make your own wrapping paper — the better to envelop the new toy and/or book you have brought along to be donated to Jewish Family and Children’s Service.
DAY 7: Dec. 14
If you’re gonna get your culture on during the holiday, then do it right by going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Festival of Lights, featuring the drums and big brass sounds of the West Philadelphia Orchestra. Singing and dancing are encouraged — how often do you get to hear that in reference to the PMA?
DAY 8: Dec. 15
What better way to spend the last night of Chanukah than striking out? Find out just how much English you can still put on a ball at the Chanukah Bowl, taking place from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m at Wynnewood Lanes in Ardmore. Sponsored by Chabad of Penn Wynne, this is billed as the only event in the area with a bowling pin menorah. There will also be unlimited bowling, pizza, music, gelt and more failed 7-10 splits than you can shake a shammas at.
On the other side of the spectrum, Theatre Ariel’s latest iteration of its Salon Ariel series, Winter Tales, will take place at 8:00 p.m. The company’s ensemble and composer/pianist Peter Simpkins will gather in the intimate setting of a Main Line home to perform short readings and music focusing on Chanukah, the Christmas dilemma and Jewish identity.