How to Celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights in Champaign-Urbana
Call it Chanukah or Hanukkah or Hanukah; whatever the translation, the festival of lights is perhaps one of the most well known Jewish holidays in the United States – if not the world.
The Champaign-Urbana Jewish community will join Jews from around the world in celebrating. We’ve put together this article to include everything you need to know about how to observe Chanukah in Champaign-Urbana.
WHEN IS CHANUKAH?
This year, the eight-day festival of Chanukah starts the night of Dec. 22 (no, that is not a typo) and continues through Dec. 30; the last candle is lit in the evening of Dec. 29. Chanukah lasts for eight days and nights, however, it’s the candle lighting that is perhaps the most important part of the holiday, and that occurs at night. Just to repeat – the first night is on a Sunday, even if your calendar says that the holiday starts on Monday. All Jewish holidays start the night before what might be labeled on a secular calendar as the first day of the holiday. (Did that make sense?)
WHAT IS CHANUKAH?
Chanukah is a minor Jewish holiday that celebrates a historical military victory over intolerance. It has plenty of customs and rituals, including the lighting of a nine-branch candelabra (Hanukkiah, commonly known as a menorah). There are traditional fried foods, games, and decorations. (If you want to learn more about Chanukah, check out our popular “What You Need to Know About Chanukah” article.)
WHERE CAN I BUY CHANUKAH STUFF?
If you are looking to buy Chanukah-related merchandise for your family or for a friend, here are some suggestions for how to do so in Champaign-Urbana. If you’ve found Chanukah stuff elsewhere, let us know in the comments.
1. Shop at the Sinai Temple Gift Shop Chanukah Showcase. This is without a doubt the BEST place in Champaign-Urbana to find merchandise related to Chanukah – candles, menorahs, dreidels (spinning tops), gelt (chocolate coins) and so much more — books, crafts, gifts, decorations, etc. See hours on our events calendar, but note that the best selection will be on Dec. 8. Sinai Temple is located near the corner of Windsor and Duncan Roads in southwest Champaign.
2. Champaign-Urbana area local businesses that typically have Chanukah merchandise include International Galleries at Urbana’s Lincoln Square Mall (menorahs, candles, gift wrap) and Art Mart (books for kids and gelt).
3. Big box stores. We’ve been blown away by the Target Hanukkah chazerai (ha-zer-ay, a Yiddish word for JUNK) this year; note that it has been out since early November, so it probably won’t last until Chanukah. We’ve also seen modest Chanukah displays at Party City, Walgreens, Meijer, and Schnucks in the past. Harvest Market in Champaign has some adorable Chanukah trinkets.
WHAT ABOUT LOCAL CHANUKAH EVENTS?
We will add events to our calendar as we learn about them.