FAQs: What you need to know for the 2020 National Menorah Lighting

The National Menorah Lighting will go on as scheduled, albeit with a few concessions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s what you need to know.

  • Q: When and where is the lighting of the National Menorah?
  • Thursday, Dec. 10, at 4 p.m. on The Ellipse. The gates open at 3 p.m.

  • Q: How much is admission?
  • It’s free.

  • Q: What about social distancing and other coronavirus-related measures?
  • The National Menorah Council said they’ve reduced capacity to allow for social distancing.

    There are “hundreds, not [the usual] thousands” of tickets, said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, vice president of the American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), which organizes the event.

    Face masks will also be required. “It’s going to look different, but it’s going to go on,” Shemtov said.

    They’ve also asked that you specify how many people from your household are in your group (so they can give you tickets together) and, since there are fewer tickets than usual, not to ask for tickets unless you’re really, really sure you’re going to be able to go.

    “This has been an unusual year in many ways, to say the least,” Shemtov said. “But the message of Hanukkah endures, as it has for millennia, and though we will have to modify the event this year to address the COVID-19 pandemic, we will nevertheless be proceeding with the event while implementing measures to ensure the safety and comfort of all the participants.”

  • Q: Any entertainment?
  • Sure thing: The U.S. Navy Band, as well as The Three Cantors, will perform, and costumed strolling performers will include Dreidelman and a troop of Maccabees.

    There will also be (packaged) latkes and doughnuts, as well as free dreidels and menorah kits.

  • Q: How long has there been a National Menorah Lighting?
  • This is the 41st annual lighting.

  • Q: Why do they do it?
  • The American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) organizes the privately funded event to “actively reaffirm the celebration of our freedom, inspired by the historic and present victory of right over might, light over darkness, and understanding and justice over intolerance and bigotry,” they say on their website.

  • Q: Who’s going to be the guest of honor who lights the Shamash, the candle in the middle?
  • They’ll announce it on Wednesday. “It’s always been a senior administration official,” Shemtov said.

  • Q: What’s the best way to get there?
  • Take the Metro if you can. The closest stations are Federal Triangle or Farragut West on the Orange, Silver and Blue lines, or Farragut North on the Red Line. The latter is a bit more of a walk, but as always when heading downtown, you’re probably better off getting as close as you can on one train rather than waiting for a second one to get just a little closer.

  • Q: Carrying on in difficult circumstances is kind of what Hanukkah is all about, isn't it?
  • “Well, that’s the core of the message,” Shemtov said — “the victory of light over darkness, right over might, justice over evil. And, even when there’s adversity, it’s a challenge that has to be overcome. When adversity presents itself on a personal front, we don’t shy away from it or have fear of it; what we do is, we reinforce ourselves and our cause, and ensure that whatever obstacles are presented are ultimately overcome.”

  • Q: Are there any Hanukkah celebrations in the area?
  • Besides the National Menorah Lighting on Dec. 10, there will also be a Chanukah drive-through audio and visual experience in Montgomery County Saturday and Sunday.

    It’s described as an experience that can be enjoyed without having to leave your car.

    The cost is $25 per vehicle.

    The Clarendon community in Arlington will celebrate the lighting of its 9-foot Menorah Sunday at 5 p.m. It’s a free event but registration is required.

    There will be Hanukkah music, prepackaged hot potato latkes and doughnuts. Also hot cocoa, chocolate gelt and dreidels.

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