There's a popular Hanukkah song that goes, "Hanukkah oh Hanukkah, come light the menorah. Let's have a party, we'll all dance the horah." Clearly, it was written pre-COVID-19. In a Quebec red zone in 2020, there will be no parties. There will be no dancing.
But there are still a handful of ways Montrealers can partake in the festival of lights this year while having fun and staying safe.
Hanukkah celebrates a miracle that occurred in the second century B.C. And, regardless of what you believe in, most of us are hoping for some kind of miracle right about now.
Amid the darkness of the times, here are six ways to find a little light.
Binge on donuts
Why: Donuts are a classic Hanukkah treat — mainly because they're fried in oil, and the Hanukkah miracle revolves around oil burning for eight days.
Jelly donuts are most common but any stuffed donut (rather than the ones with a hole) can be justified as celebratory. Then again, do you really need an excuse to binge on carbs?
Where: We suggest Chef Tony Rinaldi's bambolini or DoughNats, which has special a Hanukkah menu. If you want to get crazy, Laval's Boule Boule tops their donuts with Doritos, Cheetos, and Pringles. If all else fails, try your neighbourhood kosher bakery.
Surround yourself with light at Luminothérapie & Jardins d'hiver
Why: Hanukkah is known as the festival of lights for a reason — the luminothérapie and winter garden installations downtown offer plenty of it! Plus they're free. Art is all about the meaning you take from it, so even though these exhibitions aren't specifically meant for Hanukkah, you can find your own meaning in them.
Where: Quartier des spectacles
Livestream Chabad Quebec's public menorah lighting
Why: For the first time, all the various chapters of Chabad in Quebec — more than 30 — will join forces to hold their annual public menorah lighting together. During the livestream, Chabad is asking everybody in attendance to light their first candle at exactly the same moment, and then share the tableau on social media with the hashtag #MontrealLights.
"Our goal is to spiritually – if not physically – unite Montreal’s Jewish community, with a virtual moment of togetherness,” said Rabbi Levi New from Hampstead's Montreal Torah Center in a statement.
According to a press release, the livestream will include "virtual holiday greetings from important government and community representatives, recorded specially for this event.”
When: December 10 at 6:30 p.m.
Date local Jewish singles online
Why: MATZOBALL, a notorious party that gives Jews somewhere to go on Christmas, is doing things differently this year by hosting what it calls "the largest online Jewish speed dating event in the world!" and there's a Montreal edition.
Hanukkah will be over by the time the event rolls around, but you can spend Hanukkah getting mentally prepared, picking out an outfit and bragging to your family that, "Yes, I'm going on a date soon. And, yes, it's a Hanukkah miracle."
If that plan fails, there's always J-Swipe.
When: December 24 at 9 p.m.
Where: When you book your ticket ($38.77 – $81.20) you'll receive a unique login link 24 hours before the event.
Sample latkes until you find the best in town
Why: There's no shortage of delicious potato pancakes in this fine city of ours. Which Montreal restaurant's latkes reign supreme? If you sample enough, we're sure you'll find out. It's a tough job but someone's gotta do it.
Where: Hof Kelsten, Arthur's, Beautys Luncheonette, and Main Deli Steak House all make good options depending on whether you like your latkes fat or thin and crispy.
Send gifts to loved ones while supporting local businesses
Why: While the gift-giving component of Hanukkah is traditionally more for kids, local businesses need our support this year and our loved ones could use a pick-me-up more than ever. Shop local and then leave a little present at someone's doorstep to make them smile.
Where: If you buy a gift card to a local restaurant using this website, Stella Artois will top it up with an added $10 voucher. You can also peruse the Puces POP winter catalogue for local gift ideas.