As the holiday season is underway, we’ve been to several public holiday events that add a uniquely D.C. flavor – both light-hearted Santa celebrations and family-friendly menorah lightings.
Santarchy is a non-religious, non-political event designed for fun in many cities. In D.C., Santas and other festive participants spread cheer and candy as they walk around the Mall.
Krampusnacht – billed as an “alternative holiday celebration” – is held to benefit the Wanda Alston Foundation. The Foundation, started in 2008, offers “pre-independent transitional living and support services to homeless or at-risk LGBTQ youth ages 18 to 24 in all eight wards.” Krampusnacht has traditionally been on the street in H St. NE, but this year was at the Wunder Garten in NoMa.
The National Menorah is a 30-foot tall menorah on the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument.
The National Menorah is on public land but is privately sponsored by the American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad). The organization was first given the right to display the menorah in Lafayette Square in 1979 by the Carter administration after some objections by both the administration and liberal Jewish groups. President Reagan called it the “National Menorah” in 1982, and it moved to the location on the Ellipse in 1987, near the National Christmas Tree.
The event is open to the public (with free tickets) and thousands attend each year.
A member of the administration typically speaks at the lighting. This year it was Merrick Garland.
The rabbis are raised on a cherry picker to light the first candles.
Capitol Hill Menorah
The largest lighting after the National Menorah lighting is the Capitol Hill menorah lighting, held on the second night of Hanukkah. The event is sponsored by Hill Havurah and the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District, in front of the Church of the Reformation just down the street from the Capitol.
It’s got all the traditional elements – songs for the children, blessings, a short sermon, latkes, and jelly doughnuts – along with the lighting of the nine-foot menorah.
And in something less traditional, the event ends with fire spinning.