I've seen the advertisement every year; "Attend the Chanuka Arts Festival at Egan Center". Promising an evening of food, music, and community spirit, the Lubavitch Jewish Center invites residents of Anchorage to experience their faith and their holiday. But I've never attended. With the exponential increase in local activities to celebrate the Christian holiday of Christmas, our family calendar is usually pretty packed by the end of December. After a conversation with a very nice person at the Lubavitch Center and a bit of research, however, I believe we might be adding a stop downtown this weekend.
In the 10th year of celebration, the Chanuka Arts Festival has grown in its annual party that, over eight nights, celebrates Jewish victory over Hellenist Syrians in 165 BCE, at which only one jar of oil was left with which to rejoice over the results of the battle. This jar, containing only enough oil to burn one day, miraculously lasted eight days, and members of the Jewish faith still rejoice in grateful thanksgiving today. Celebrated on the 25th of Kislev (by the Hebrew Calendar), and in November or December (by the Gregorian calendar), the celebration of Chanuka (or Hankkah, if you wish) in Anchorage will offer attendees an evening that promises to be full of respect, joy, and glad tidings, whatever your faith.
Beginning at 5 p.m., fun is everywhere for kids with a moon bounce and chocolate menorah (the candles and candle holder used each night for the celebration), along with face painting and a play that explains the significance of Chanukah to those of us who are still admittedly a bit ignorant. Organizers this year are creating a huge "Canorah" out of donated canned goods for local charities. There will be also be traditional food to sample and music to enjoy.
Perhaps the most significant event of the evening, however, might be reserved for a special "Darkness to Light" ceremony to remember the fallen from a recent attack in Mumbai, India.
In these turbulent times of misunderstandings and cultural confusion, perhaps we could do well to take a few hours to immerse ourselves and our children in another faith. Raising kids with healthy respect for all religions and backgrounds serves as a reminder of peace.
And, isn't that what we all wish for this December?
For more information on the Chanukah Arts Festival, call the Lubavitch Jewish Center at 279-1200. For additional Chanukah/Hannukkah information, try this site that explained it all to me. Eat some jelly donuts or latkes and enjoy a festival that is bright and certainly worth checking out.