Hanukkah set to start, but faith celebrations will look different
LONDON, ONT. -- The holiday season is in full swing, with Hanukkah set to begin Thursday and Christmas just over two weeks away. But many places of worship are shifting gears and planning for a different celebration this year, due to the risk of COVID-19.
The programing director at Jewish London, Erick Robinson, says in most years the community would gather for a huge party inside the Jewish Community Center on Huron Street to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah.
This would include lighting of the menorah, playing games and eating delicious traditional food. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve had to shift to a virtual celebration.
“We’re trying to make the best of the situation, by having a fun online Hanukkah party. An instructor from Elan Dance Arts will hosting the online dance party, and there will be gift bags that include props to use during the dance party,” said Robinson.
Hanukkah is one of Judaism's biggest holidays, celebrating a military victory of Jews over an occupying Greek force. Each night during the festival, there is a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods.
Tradition says the Hebrews only had enough oil to keep the menorah lit for one day, yet the oil lasted for eight days, which is symbolized by the eight candles.
Chabad Rabbi Mordechai Silberberg, the Jewish Champlain at Western University says on a normal Friday night, pre-pandemic, they would have hundreds of students at the Chabad on Adelaide Street, but they’ve had to reduce their numbers and adhere to new government restrictions.
It's something that he says has been a challenge for their community.
“We’re a home for the students primarily, you feel connected to other people, and it’s not something you can do virtually. So we’ve decided, and shifted things to be able to provide as much as we could the traditional way, so up until a few weeks ago, we had our Friday night dinners in our parking lot,” said Silberberg.
He says the large menorah outside city hall will be kindled Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. during a small ceremony, with all COVID-19 safety measures in place.
“The mayor will share a few words, I will say a few words about the story of Hanukkah, we will kindle the menorah, people will say a blessing, and we will hand out pre-packaged bags. We want to keep everything 110 per cent within the Middlesex-London Health Unit guidelines.”
A group of volunteers will be distribuing a full bag of goodies, including traditional Jewish latkes and sufganiyot, along with a tin Hanukkah candle kit and dreidel.
Meanwhile, Reverend Canon Kevin George of St. Aidan's Anglican Church in London says they are concerned about the rising numbers. As a result, they’ve made sure with their in-person weekly worship, they include online Facebook livestreams.
“We’ve made the decision that for Christmas this year, we are going to do online worship exclusively, because there are so many people that would normal want to come out, and we have limited space, we’d have to do so many different masses,” said George.