December is dark. And cold. And nine months away from High Holidays season. But if you look closely there’s plenty to celebrate (ahem, Chanukah!) and plenty more to do to keep yourself busy and ward off that early-winter slump.
For one thing, the Festival of Lights kicks off Dec. 2, and there will be lots of ways to celebrate, whether by lighting candles in the comfort of your home or by attending a public ceremony.
Here are 10 things to do — and there are many more possibilities — in Philadelphia in December, ranging from concerts to sports games to Chanukah-themed fun. And remember: Passover is right around the corner!
1. Chocolate Gelt-Making
Chocolate Chanukah gelt is delicious. You know this. But do you know how to make it?
On Dec. 2, the Jewish Farm School (jewishfarmschool.org) will host a gelt-making workshop starting at noon. Participants will learn how to turn raw, ethically sourced cacao beans into Chanukah gelt. All it takes is an oven, a blender, wind and fingers.
It will also be educational, with the Farm School teaching about the history of Jewish people’s relationship to chocolate.
2. Sixers Jewish Heritage Night on Dec. 2
Join Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel (bzbi.org/event/sixers-jewish-heritage- night/) at 5 p.m. on Dec. 2 for a night celebrating the Philadelphia Jewish community at the Wells Fargo Center, when the 76ers take on the Memphis Grizzlies. Maybe don’t boo the Grizzlies as loudly as normal, though; Memphis forward Omri Casspi is a native of Holon, Israel.
Casspi, 30, made his professional debut at age 17 with Maccabi Tel Aviv during the 2005-06 season. He stuck with the team through the 2007-08 campaign, and in 2009 he was selected in the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings. He runs the Omri Casspi Foundation, which helps sponsor trips for NBA players, WNBA players and celebrities to Israel.
3. Latke Vodka — A Chanukah Celebration
Latkes. Vodka. What else do you need? Congregation Rodeph Shalom (rodephshalom.org) will have both on Dec. 8, during its annual fundraiser for the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art. The PMJA has organized solo and group exhibitions since 1975, and this event will help sustain its exhibits.
4. The Met’s Grand Opening
Don’t call it the Metropolitan Opera House. The historic venue on North Broad Street is now known as the The Met Philadelphia (themetphilly.com), and it reopens Dec. 3 with a bang. Or, more specifically, with Bob Dylan (born and raised Jewish) and His Band. The Met keeps rocking for the rest of December, with performances by Kurt Vile and the Violators and HBO comedian/talk show host John Oliver, among others.
5. Community Chanukah Concert with Rick Recht
Renowned Jewish rock artist Rick Recht is coming to Philadelphia. The man behind the popular album Tear Down the Walls will perform at Tiferet Bet Israel (tbibluebell.org) on Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in an event co-presented by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and Kehillah of Bux-Mont.
Recht has performed live at Camp Poyntelle, Camp Ramah, Herzl Camp, Cam Barney Medintz, URJ Camp Coleman, as well as myriad synagogues and Jewish rock festivals. He is also the founder and director of Jewish Rock Radio.
Looking for a nice Jewish boy? How about a nice Jewish girl? There will be plenty at The MatzoBall (matzoball.org), one of the nation’s leading Jewish singles event, on Christmas Eve. This year’s event will be held at the Vesper Sporting Club, starting at 10 p.m.
This is the 32nd year of MatzoBall, which is also running parties in Miami; Boston; Delray Beach, Fla.; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
7. Army-Navy Game
For the 88th year and the third time in four years, Philadelphia will play host to the historic Army-Navy (armynavygame.com)college football game. The teams from the two service institutions will face off at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 8 in front of an estimated 50,000 people.
Army has beaten Navy two years in a row, including last year’s 14-13 victory. Before that, Navy won the previous 14 meetings between the programs, from 2002-15. Navy leads the all-time series, with 60 wins to Army’s 51. There have been seven ties.
8. Rittenhouse Square Candle Lighting
Rittenhouse Square is one of Philadelphia’s most aesthetically pleasing parks, and one of its most popular, given its location in Center City. It becomes even more beautiful when lit up at night.
That’ll happen once again Dec. 4, when the Center City Kehillah (centercityjews.org) holds a ceremonial candle lighting on the third night of Chanukah. Make sure you’re in attendance by 4 p.m.; with daylight saving time, it’ll be nearly pitch black by the time of the lighting.
9. Winter at Dilworth Park
Dilworth Park (centercityphila.org/parks/dilworth-park) goes all out for the winter season. From Nov. 9-Feb. 24, 2019, the park transforms into a giant ice skating rink, with miraculous views of City Hall and the rest of the Philly skyline. The park also features the pop-up Wintergarden, which is full of holiday lights and seasonal plants, and the on-site Rothman Orthopaedics Cabin.
10. The National Museum of American Jewish History Presents Being ____ at Christmas
The National Museum of American Jewish History (nmajh.org) is open on Christmas day, for those who are:
“Snowy. Jewish. Happy. Caring. Buddhist. Generous. Family. Creative. Friendly. Sparkly. Fill in your own blank and join us for our annual day of family fun,” the museum website reads.
The day, which is sponsored by the Robert Saligman Jewish Heritage Fund, starts at 10 a.m. with a drop-in art project, face painting and balloon art.
The fun goes until 3 p.m., with events in between like live music from Alex & the Kaleidoscope, Comedy For Kids and films (The Three Stooges, Marx Brothers and more).
There will be special exhibitions throughout the museum and a quiet game room. Food is BYO, but the snack stand will be open with a small assortment of kosher packaged goods.