8 ways to celebrate Chanukah in Birmingham

Happy Chanukah, kids at Temple Emanu-el
Could they be any more adorable? Photo via Temple Emanuel’s Facebook page

It’s almost time to sping that dreidel! December 22 is the first night of Chanukah, and we’ve gathered eight ways to celebrate The Festival of Lights in Birmingham. Read on to find out how.

1—Visit the Chanukah House in Forest Park—now-December 31

The Chanukah House in Forest Park
Why yes, that is a hanukiyah, or menorah, coming out of a dreidel, on the side of Forest Park’s Chanukah House. Photo via Larry Brook

If you’ve ever hit up the yearly Wacky Tacky Light Tour, you’ve no doubt come across the Chanukah House. If you missed the tour, you can still see it. Just head up Rockford Road near the Altamont School. Hint: it’s the one with the Fiddler on the Roof.

Fiddler on the Roof
It’s hard to miss the house with the Fiddler on the Roof. Photo via Larry Brook

2—Hanukkah Sing Along & Story Time at the LJCC—December 18

A little taste of the amazingly talented Sarah Metzger. No, this isn’t a Chanukah song, but it is a Dolly Parton song, which makes it almost as good.

This one is sure to be a hit with the five and under crowd, who doesn’t yet know how to spell and doesn’t realize that yes, there are different ways to spell this holiday.

  • What: Hanukkah Sing Along & Story Time. Sarah Metzger of Temple Beth-El will be leading festive songs and Miss Tina from the LJCC will read a story. There will be Hanukkah-themed snacks, too, and not just for the kids.
  • Where: Levite JCC of Birmingham. 3960 Montclair Rd., Birmingham, AL 35213
  • When: Wednesday, December 18, 10-11AM
  • Admission: Free. RSVP to Priscilla Denard at Pdenard@bhamjcc.org

3—Hanukkah Cookie Party for Young Jewish Adults in Mountain Brook—December 22

Chanukah cookies
Chanukah cookies,” by Sharon McKellar. CC BY-ND 2.0

If you’re 22ish-38ish and you like cookies, this one’s for you. You can thank the folks at You Belong in Birmingham.

  • What: hanukkah cookie party—bring cookies to swap and enjoy games, s’mores and hot chocolate.
  • When: Sunday, December 22, 2PM
  • Where: Mountain Brook (email for details)
  • RSVP: kendal.jaffe@gmail.com by December 18

4—Grand Menorah Lighting at The Summit—December 22

From the Grand Menorah Lighting at The Summit
The Kanters at the 2017 Grand Menorah Lighting at The Summit. Photo via Facebook

When I began writing about the Grand Menorah Lighting, I was going to say it’s like a big Birmingham Jewish family reunion. Then I read this story that Liz Brody wrote back in 2017, and she already said that.

So there you go—if there’s anyone in the Jewish community you haven’t had a chance to hug or say hello to in too long, chances are you’ll see them at the Grand Menorah Lighting at The Summit.

  • When: Sunday, Dec. 22, 4:30-6PM
  • Where: Saks Plaza at The Summit (on the lowest level), 214 Summit Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35243
  • What happens when:
    • 4:30: latkes, donut wall, stilt walker, balloon artist, bubble show, graffiti mural and Lego dreidels
    • 5:15: menorah lighting with Sen. Doug Jones lighting the Shamash (this is the helper candle used to light the remaining candles)

They also drop lots of Chanukah gelt (chocolate coins), so the kids have a great time scrambling to gather all the chocolate they can.

5—Knesseth Israel’s Chanukah Extravaganza 2019 in Mountain Brook—December 24

Dreidel  is one of the ways to celebrate Chanukah
From a rollicking game of dreidel at our house last year. Photo via Sharron Swain

I’ve taken a look at the menu for this event, and if you’re a fan of Jewish food, you’ll love it. It looks sooo tasty.

  • What: Bingo, raffle, latkes & more
  • Admission: RSVP with payment by December 18. Adults $18, Children 12 and under $10.
  • Reserve your spot

6—Great Wall of Chinakah Kosher Chinese Dinner at Chabad in Mountain Brook—December 25

Jewish Christmas, but of course not really
Okay so the shirt is kind of an in-joke. Chanukah is definitely not “the Jewish Christmas” . . . and, it is true that lots of Jewish people eat Chinese food on Christmas. Photo via Sharron Swain
  • What: Great Wall of Chinakah Kosher Chinese Dinner
  • Where: Chabad. 3040 Overton Rd, Birmingham, AL 35223
  • When: Wednesday, December 25, 5-8PM, menorah lighting at 6PM
  • Admission: RSVP before December 20, $20 per adult, $10 per child; RSVP December 21 and after, $30 per adult, $20 per child
  • Reserve your spot

7—Menorah kits available at the LJCC and Chabad throughout Chanukah

Menorah and picture of Sharron's Dad when he was little
Our menorah with a picture of my Dad when he was a kid. Photo via Sharron Swain

If Chanukah is your holiday and you find yourself menorah-less this year, both Chabad and the LJCC have menorah kits that they’re giving out at no cost throughout the holiday. In them you’ll find a menorah, candles and cards with the blessings.

8—Eat Latkes and Sufganiyot

A lotta latkes at Temple Beth-El  Birmingham
Women of Temple Beth-El frying latkes in preparation for the 2016 Annual Sisterhood Chanukkah Lunch, Blintz and Bake Sale.

During Chanukah, Jews eat lots of foods fried in oil. The tradition among Ashkenazi Jews (most of Birmingham’s Jewish community, with roots in Eastern Europe or Europe) is to eat potato latkes. The tradition in Israel is to eat sufganiyot, or fried jelly donuts. Either way, yum.

If you don’t want everything in your house to smell like fried oil, you can get latkes at Mile End Deli or Trader Joe’s. The more adventuresome among you may want to try making your own. In that case, here’s a favorite recipe a friend gave me years ago. Alternatively, you can buy a boxed mix from Publix which is even easier.

Sufganiyot from Hero Donuts.
Sufganiyot from Hero Donuts. Photo from Facebook

Hero Donuts in Homewood will start making sufganiyot Monday, December 23 through the end of the year, or you can make your own.

For special orders from Hero Donuts, call 205.623.1017 at least a day ahead.

Now tell us, what are your favorite ways to celebrate Chanukah in Birmingham? Tag us on social @bhamnow and let us know.