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Chicago Celebrates Chanukah

It’s the time of year when lights shine bright, and latkes are on the plate in Chicago.

Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights,” commemorates the victory of the Maccabees against the Sellucid Greeks. It also recognizes the miracle of the oil that lasted eight nights during the re-sanctification of the Temple in Jerusalem. Remembering this miracle, a menorah is lit for eight nights with one candle added each night until all eight (plus the “helper” Shamash candle) glow brightly, and foods typically cooked in oil are enjoyed.

This year’s celebration lasts from December 18-26, overlapping with Christmas, and is filled with lights, delicious foods, and family-friendly events. If you’ve ever wondered what a hanukkiah (menorah) was or why everyone seems to be eating potato pancakes (latkes), chocolate coins (gelt) and jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot) during these eight days, here’s your chance to join in the festivities and experience the holiday yourself. 

Chanukah Celebrations in Chicago

Menorah Lighting at Daley Plaza

The “City’s Menorah,” as it’s known, returns to Daley Plaza for its 40th year (nearly), standing 31 feet high and 18 feet wide. Weighing five tons, the menorah is a replica of the White House Menorah. The official lighting ceremony is overseen by dignitaries, lay leaders, business leaders and the community.

Menorah Lighting at The Pendry Chicago

The Pendry Chicago invites guests to join the hotel team in the lobby as they light the menorah each evening at sunset during the eight days of Hanukkah, from December 18 – December 26, at 5 p.m. 

Strawdog Theatre Company

The play Hershel and The Hanukkah Goblins will be performed at the Strawdog Theatre Company from December 11-31. In this adaptation of the Caldecott Honor-winning book, a traveling troupe of actors comes to town and finds no one celebrating Hanukkah. They must put on a show to save the holiday. The big question: will they bring back the spirit of Hanukkah to the town? Will Hershel of Ostropol outsmart the goblins who haunt the old synagogue? The annual play is appropriate for all ages.

Chicago a cappella

Chicago a cappella, Chicago’s acclaimed vocal ensemble, begins its 30th season this December with a new holiday concert program, “Hanukkah a cappella.” on December 10-11. The two concerts feature traditional Hanukkah songs as well as works by eight living composers ranging from prayers to jazzy and playful holiday favorites. All concerts will be reprised online during the week of December 19, on demand. Purchase tickets in advance on the website.

8 Crazy Nights

8 Crazy Nights, Chicago’s only Hanukkah-themed pop-up bar, returns to The Graystone Tavern in Wrigleyville for the holiday. The bar’s blue and white decor includes more than 14,000 blue-and-white lights, dreidel ornaments, a lit menorah and a Hanukkah sweater wall. Hanukkah-themed cocktails like the Mensch Mule, the Sufganiyot Shot, or the Menorah Margarita headline a cocktail list with a dash of holiday merriment. Food choices include traditional and cilantro-jalapeno latkes, brisket egg rolls, challah grilled cheese sandwiches served with tomato soup, and boozy jelly donuts. 

Split-Rail 

Split-Rail in West Town is bringing back its annual Family Hanukkah dinner on December 19. This $75 per person prix fixe meal covers a family-style dinner and wine for the evening with a menu that includes traditional matzo ball soup, braised brisket, crisp potato latkes and noodle kugel. Book your table here.

L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge

Enjoy Hanukkah, North Woods-style, at L. Woods Tap Pine Lodge. The supper club’s 12-hour smoked prime brisket is a sure winner, and you can expect other holiday faves like matzo ball soup, roasted Brussels sprouts, noodle kugel, potato latkes, and chocolate babka. Order for pickup here

Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen

Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen knows how to do deli right so putting together a Hanukkah feast is a no-brainer here. The deli sells its giant potato pancake all year round, with an option to add sour cream or homemade applesauce on the side. Another vegetarian treat, Manny’s noodle kugel, adds to the festivity.