In a world beset by war, chocolate gelt and parachuting dreidels will be dropped from helicopters and menorah-carrying drones. Displaying courage faith and pride in the face of bigotry and antisemitism, more than 15,000 large menorahs will light up public spaces around the globe. Amid worry and conflict, millions of Jewish homes will be brightened by the lights of menorahs and warmed by the gathering of families and friends. When the eight-day holiday of Chanukah begins this year at nightfall on Sunday, Dec. 18, every event will have its own character, yet the loud and clear message from each one is the same.

“There is an increasing amount of spiritual darkness in the world,” says Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, director of Chabad Flamingo in Ontario, Canada. “And that behooves us to increase in our spiritual light.”

Thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch centers around the globe will be driving that message home this year with a special strength unique to the Hakhel Year, which occurs every seven years. The Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—encouraged the Jewish people to make gatherings during Hakhel years and focus on strengthening Torah learning and Jewish observance.


Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights,” notes Kaplan, is a perfect opportunity to do just that.

In Odessa, Ukraine, for example, Chanukah will look very different this year. Civilian neighborhoods have been on the receiving end of frequent airstrikes, which means that locals need to stay near shelter and frequently experience extended power outages during a freezing winter season.

In the past, Chabad of Odessa hosted extravagant outdoor menorah-lighting ceremonies, complete with a nine-meter-tall menorah and fireworks display. This year it wouldn’t be safe to host the event outdoors or even to light the giant menorah in public. Instead, Rabbi Avraham and Chaya Wolff, directors of Chabad of Odessa, are working on getting permission to display the menorah on top of the iconic Potemkin Stairs as a symbol of light over darkness.

Inside of the city’s huge synagogue, Chabad will be hosting nightly menorah-lightings for the community. “Hopefully, there will be electricity,” says Chaya Wolff. “But if not, we will have a generator powering the event.”

They’ll also be hosting a Chanukah event for all of the children who attend the Chabad preschool, elementary and high school on the third night of Chanukah, followed by an event for university students and young adults on the fourth. That one will be hosted in the hall of a hotel, which has a strong generator.

Says Wolff: “In this way, G‑d willing, we will be able to bring both light and warmth to every Jew in the city!”

The Odessa Menorah (File photo)
The Odessa Menorah (File photo)

Bringing Chanukah to 8 Million Jews

The eight-day holiday begins on Sunday night, Dec. 18, and continues through Monday, Dec. 26. During these eight days, Chabad-Lubavitch will reach an estimated 8 million Jews—more than half the worldwide Jewish population.

Large menorahs will be displayed in front of landmarks around the world, including the White House, the Eiffel Tower and the Brandenburg Gate.

More than 700,000 menorah kits and 2.5 million holiday guides in 17 languages are already being distributed for home, classroom and office use. The streets will be taken, too: around 5,000 menorah-topped cars will be driving around cities, towns and rural areas all over the globe., the largest Jewish information website, is poised to see record-breaking traffic to its Chanukah site, The site offers an extensive selection of guides, videos, songs, insights, recipes and customs. Included on the site, at, is the world’s largest Chanukah directory, which features events in hundreds of cities around the world and is constantly being updated.

And to help people host their own Hakhel Chanukah celebrations, the staff have prepared a do-it-yourself guide replete with texts, recipes and even a suggested program.

The initiative to encourage and sponsor public menorah-lightings began 49 years ago, in 1973, when the Rebbe launched the worldwide campaign in an effort to create awareness of Chanukah and promote its observance. (Read the Rebbe’s letter from 1981 about public menorah-lightings here.)

Art Menorah in San Miguel, Mexico. (File photo)
Art Menorah in San Miguel, Mexico. (File photo)

An Artistic Choice for San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Deep in Mexico is a city full of art and personality, San Miguel de Allende. Artist Meila Penn, a member of the young Chabad community there, was excited about being invited by Rabbi Daniel and Raizel Heubner to design the city’s unique public menorahs. “Chanukah is my favorite holiday,” says Penn.. “I feel super close to Hashem during Chanukah, it allows me to count my blessings.”

In a conversation with, Penn explained her intentions behind the round menorah design. “The circle represents the cycle of life, continuation, coming together, and the infinitude of G‑d. If you look at the Menorah, on one side the finish is antique and rustic, and on the other side it’s modern and slick—finished with automotive paint. It represents the importance of holding onto our historical roots as Jews as we move forward into this modern world. On the top are the lights that bridge that gap, and each day of Chanukah we light one more. Especially today, with antisemitism becoming so prevalent, it’s most important that we increase in shining our light, and connect and grow, and embrace those around us.”

The menorahs are displayed in San Miguel’s historic downtown center and are lit every night of Chanukah. In honor of the Hakhel year, a crowd of 70 people is anticipated for a grand lighting ceremony, and hundreds more will be seeing the lit menorahs over Chanukah.

“Mexico, and our city, in particular, hasn’t seen a rise in antisemitism,” says Raizel Huebner. “But people here see what is happening around the world and view this public proud display as a message of hope.”

Penn adds that the menorah has an element of gratitude in it, as well. “As a young Jewish community here in San Miguel, we’re so fortunate that we’ve been welcomed by the locals, and they’re eager to come see our Menorah and heritage. They allowed us to put this Jewish religious symbol in the most prominent place in the city. So this piece is inspired not just by the troubles around the world, but also as gratitude that we are welcomed to spread our light here in San Miguel.”

Drone liftoff in Petaluma, Calif. (File photo)
Drone liftoff in Petaluma, Calif. (File photo)

Flying Menorahs in California Gone Viral

A problem-solving brainstorm last year led to an exciting new trend to be seen in several public lightings this year.

Eight years ago, when Rabbi Dovid and Devorah Bush, directors of Chabad of Petaluma, Calif., hosted their first-ever Chanukah event at the Petaluma River, they were pleasantly surprised to see more than 250 people show up. Jewish people were looking for something to connect with. The annual event grew every year, with exciting features including the world’s largest spinning dreidel made on the rotator of a cement truck and inspired by the children’s book Chanukah Night Number Three.

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced the community to think differently, and the Chanukah event relocated to Petaluma Fairgrounds, where a drive-through event hosted 650-plus guests.

Last year, Chanukah arrived just as locals were just beginning to attend large outdoor events again, so the Bushes wanted to bring something special. The first idea was a helicopter to drop chocolate Chanukah gelt onto the crowd—an exciting trend seen at other Chabad menorah-lighting events around the world. When it became clear that they wouldn’t be able to get the permits for the helicopter, Bush began to wonder what a drone could do.

Some collaborative thinking with Rabbi Yale Spalter, director of Chabad San Mateo, Calif., and the handiwork of drone enthusiast, Werner Von Stein, led to the invention of “The Drone Menorah Gelt Drop.”

Von Stein, who runs SF Drone School, recalls receiving a phone call from a rabbi last August. “We’re having an outdoor event. Can you fly a menorah under a drone?”

He went straight to Home Depot to buy PVC pipes, and placed an order for electric lights and candles on Amazon. The resulting menorah is fully equipped with lighting to be visible from afar and boxes with release latches to drop gelt and other Chanukah goodies with mini-parachutes. The entire contraption connects to a drone and can be controlled remotely by experts.

Giant dreidel in Petaluma. (File photo)
Giant dreidel in Petaluma. (File photo)

In both Petaluma and San Mateo, the Drone Menorah Gelt Drop was received with incredible enthusiasm and awe. A video taken by a guest at the Petaluma event went viral across social media, with tens of thousands of Jewish people proud to see a menorah brightly lit, high up in the California sky, followed by the thrill of parachuting Chanukah goodies.

This year, Von Stein will be flying the Drone Menorah Gelt Drop at four Chanukah events (and possibly more), and will share drone kit instructions with communities around the world who are interested in creating their own.

“After the awesome success of our Chanukah event last year,” says Bush, “one local mom commented that Chabad brought to town the JewGlue. I think that sums up the idea of this Hakhel Year.”

Helicopter drops Chanukah treats in St. Johns County, Fla. (File photo)
Helicopter drops Chanukah treats in St. Johns County, Fla. (File photo)

Chanukah Comes to Sunday Night Football

With 80,000 fans watching from the stands and upwards of 19 million tuning in from home, Sunday Night Football’s first public menorah lighting will take place at FedEx Field just outside Washington, D.C. on the first night of Chanukah.

After the first quarter of the game between the Washington Commanders and New York Giants, a Jewish teen will recite the blessings and light a specially designed menorah on the concourse overlooking the field as fans watches over the jumbotrons. Representatives of CTeen International and Chabad of Maryland, which organized the event, will be there too, and are planning to pose with dozens of CTeens for a photo on the field after the game.

CTeen chapters from along the East Coat attend the game and be on handfor the lighting. Meanwhile, Chabad of Maryland is preparing a menorah parade to FedEx Field, a tailgate party outside the game, and pre-game distributions of Chanukah menorahs, latkes, and fresh jelly doughnuts for Jewish fans.

Creating Special Memories for the Jewish Kids

In St. Johns County, Fla., Rabbi Mendel and Dini Sharfstein are going all out for the kids with a very specific goal. The county is heavily decorated with holiday lights and trees, and for two or even three months, Jewish children feel overwhelmingly left out.

“It’s hard for the kids because they’re surrounded by a holiday that’s not theirs,” says Dini Sharfstein. “We hear from some parents that their kids don’t want to be Jewish anymore because they want to celebrate like everyone else.”

On the third night of Chanukah, Chabad of St. Johns County will host a helicopter gelt drop and light show. After lighting a giant menorah, a children’s choir will sing on stage, and then a helicopter will fly over and drop a record 10,000 chocolate coins for the little ones to catch. There will be a light show, a dance party company with full lighting effects, and, of course, latkes, doughnuts and a kosher-food truck.

Last year, a crowd of 1,500 attended, and this year even more are expected.

“This gives kids the feeling that Chanukah is so special and so exciting, and that we also get to have an extravagant, amazing party,” emphasizes Sharfstein.

“When parents tell me that they can’t come because it’s a school night or their kids have an after-school program, I tell them: Take off one night. I say, give your child this experience where they are surrounded by tons of other Jews celebrating Chanukah proudly, with such incredible fun. Give them those memories!”

St. Johns County Menorah. (File photo)
St. Johns County Menorah. (File photo)

Light for the Busiest Border Crossing in the World

Chabad of Carmel Valley–Del Mar will be hosting two public menorah-lightings and an indoor Chanukah party. The first public lighting will be at One Paseo Mall and the second at Gelson’s Market, both featuring large crowds for the Hakhel Year.

“The louder and prouder we are as Jews, the more respected we are,” says Rabbi Mendel Polichenco, who directs Chabad of Carmel Valley with his wife, Dini. “I always preach that we need to be strong, proud and loud Jews. The Rebbe wanted us to make menorah lightings that are loud and out in public.”

Not far from Carmel Valley is the world’s busiest border crossing, between San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico. Polichenco will light a menorah on either side of the border for all travelers to see.

Very First Lighting With New Emissaries in Worthing, England

In Worthing, England, the small Jewish community is looking forward to their very first public menorah-lighting, which will also be a welcoming for new Chabad emissaries, Rabbi Shaya and Chaya Mushka Gurary.

In nearby Brighton, Chabad emissaries Rabbi Pesach and Penina Efune of Chabad-Lubavitch Brighton are planning the Worthing event, as well as a public menorah-lighting for their own community at Palmeira Square to be attended by the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Lizzie Deane.

“In the past, our menorah in Brighton has been attacked with antisemitic graffiti and vandalism,” says Penina Efune. “So it’s been delightful working with the people in Worthing, where everyone is eager to help and are genuinely happy for people to be celebrating what’s meaningful to them.”

In Worthing and Brighton, the events will feature kosher Chanukah doughnuts and latkes from London, a two-hour drive away.

Nick Beck is a local Jewish community activist who has been helping prepare for the Chanukah events. He says the menorah display is very important to the isolated Jewish population. “I think every Jew feels very proud when they pass Palmeira Square where they have the menorah-lighting,” he says “It’s a great feeling to pass and see that it’s not only the non-Jewish holiday lights, but we Jews have a holiday that’s even older and still celebrated.”

Young Ambassadors of Light in Boynton Beach, Fla. (File photo)
Young Ambassadors of Light in Boynton Beach, Fla. (File photo)

Ambassadors to the World From Preschool in Boynton Beach

In Boynton Beach, Fla., 450 Jews of all backgrounds and ages are expected to attend Chanukah Wonderland. The wonderland will have laser tag, bounce houses, rides, obstacle courses, face-painting and all kinds of fun. The most exciting feature will be a beautiful art menorah designed cooperatively by the preschool children from Chabad of Boynton Beach. After lighting the unique menorah, there will be a gelt drop from the top of a fire truck ladder, followed by fireworks.

With all the exciting glitz, it will be the preschoolers who headline the event.

“The most beautiful part of this event,” says Dini Ciment, who co-directs Chabad of Boynton Beach with Rabbi Sholom Ciment, “is the children of our preschool. They have been our Ambassadors for Light—they’ve each been taking menorah kits and giving them out to friends, neighbors and extended family who may not have one of their own at home.”

Glowing Menorah in Brunswick, Maine. (File photo)
Glowing Menorah in Brunswick, Maine. (File photo)

The Maine Meshagoyim and a Nine-Foot Glow-in-the-Dark Menorah

In Brunswick, Maine, a small town with a small Jewish community, Jewish women gathered around to make menorahs out of granite and discuss the lessons learned from Chanukah heroine, Yehudit (Judith).

“We can overcome all of our challenges, especially these days when antisemitic attacks are on the rise,” says Draizy Lefkowitz, co-director of Chabad of Brunswick. “We need to stay strong and be proud of who we are.”

Rabbi Shmuly and Draizy Lefkowitz will be hosting a grand menorah-lighting at the Brunswick Town Mall, a central and bustling location on Maine Street, down the block from the local college. The menorah is bound to catch the attention of passersby; it’s nine feet tall, and glows in the dark. The popular local music group, the Maine Meshagoyim, will be playing live, and entertainment will include a dreidel LED stilt walker, a balloon twister and for extra excitement, the Brunswick Fire Department will be throwing Chanukah gelt to the kids from the top of a fire-truck ladder.

Every year, the bright display of Jewish pride has a profound effect on the Jews who gather around. “At a menorah-lighting once, a college student walked over to my husband,” recalls Lefkowitz. “He said that he didn’t have anything to do with Judaism since his Hebrew school days, but he happened to be walking downtown and saw the menorah with the many attendees who were out and proud of their Judaism. It reignited something in his soul, and he wanted to start learning about Judaism again.”

TikTok Sensation Headlines Largest Chanukah Event in South California

Chabad of the Valley’s Chanukah @ CityWALK is a legendary Chanukah event, attended by thousands annually. It’s held at the 5 Towers Stage of Universal CityWALK Hollywood, a busy gathering area right outside Universal Studios.

Since the first event in 2002, it has been headlined by famous Jewish entertainers, including Avraham Fried, Mordechai Ben David, Yaakov Shwekey, the late Yosi Piamenta, Lipa Shmeltzer, 8th Day, Benny Friedman and Gad Elbaz. This year’s event features the Miami Boys Choir, who in addition to their fame in the Jewish world, have recently become a TikTok sensation with their videos reaching and inspiring millions of people.

“Once, one of our vendors came to the event, but left her young daughter at home,” recalls Rabbi Mayer Greene, Youth Director at Chabad of the Valley. “But in the middle of the three-hour event, she told me that seeing how we completely transformed this center of Hollywood into a place of light and Jewish pride, she was having her daughter brought over to experience it right away.”

Menorah lighting and party at Universal CityWALK Hollywood, a busy gathering area right outside Universal Studios. (File photo)
Menorah lighting and party at Universal CityWALK Hollywood, a busy gathering area right outside Universal Studios. (File photo)

A Menorah Comes to Life

Just outside of Toronto, Kaplan is preparing for multiple public menorah-lightings, including for the very first time at the Ontario Provincial Police Headquarters, as well as Vaughan City Hall, No Frills Supermarket and a Chanukah Fantasy Fair at the Woodbine indoor theme park, where up to 2,000 people are expected to join. “In the middle of the event, we’ll stop all the rides to light the menorah together, and that is going to be very special.”

Kaplan recalls a previous Chanukah event where the message of the menorah came to life in a personal way. He was packing up after a menorah-lighting that had been broadcast live on CHIN radio TV when a man approached him. The two began to talk, and it became apparent that the man was incredibly despondent and depressed. He asked the rabbi what he could do to cheer up just a little.

“I told him that joy comes from helping others,” recalls Kaplan. “Like the message of the menorah—share light with others. I suggested he visit patients in hospitals.”

A year later, after a similar event, as Kaplan was again putting away the menorah, he was again approached by a man.

“I’m not sure you recognize me,” he said. When the rabbi replied that he didn’t, he continued: “Remember last year someone was talking to you as you were putting away the menorah? I’m that guy. I followed your advice. I had considered taking my life, I was so depressed. But since I started doing what you said, and I visited a whole bunch of hospitals. It has given me great joy, and a sense of mission and fulfillment in life.”

Invitation to Chanukah at Chabad Flamingo in Ontario, Canada.
Invitation to Chanukah at Chabad Flamingo in Ontario, Canada.
The drone liftoff in Petaluma, Calif. (File photo)
The drone liftoff in Petaluma, Calif. (File photo)