10 Things to Do in Philadelphia in December

LumiNature Northern Lights exhibit at The Philadelphia
LumiNature Northern Lights exhibit at The Philadelphia (Zoofacebook.com/philadelphiazoo)

The weather outside may be frightful, but festivals, candlelightings and craft shows are events that people may find delightful.

Philadelphia is filled to the brim with activities to keep your spirits warm during the cold season. So put on your hats and jackets, fill up your hot cocoa mug and head out into the winter wonderland for tons to see and tons to do. For suggestions, here are 10 of the many things to do around the area this December.

1. Philadelphia Zoo

The Philadelphia Zoo has been transformed through Jan. 5 into a chilly delight. Visitors will witness LumiNature, a multimedia light and music experience. Grab some hot chocolate and adult beverages as performers stroll across the 12 different illuminated areas to see, each with a unique wildlife message and theme. Make sure to watch out for lions, tigers and bears — oh my!

2. The Hidden Maccabee Sister

Chanukah commemorates Judah Maccabee, but what of his sister, Judith? While lesser-known, she also had a part to play in the Jewish restoration of the Second Temple. This presentation at Gratz College at noon on Dec. 5 will have Congregation Adath Jeshurun’s Rabbi Shai Cherry use art, history and Jewish text to tell the story of a person who has been marginalized and misunderstood for centuries. The lecture costs $24 and includes a kosher lunch.

3. Latke/Vodka Fundraiser Party

Warm yourself with latkes and vodka from Congregation Rodeph Shalom at 7 p.m. on Dec. 5, at its annual Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art fundraiser. The museum is located inside the synagogue and has hosted exhibits since 1975. The party helps to support the work of the institution in exhibiting contemporary art that illuminates the Jewish experience.

4. Holiday Drink Festivals

Fill your cup or mug at these two drink festivals, both making a return this December to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks. The ninth annual Valley Forge Beer and Cider Festival on Dec. 14 will have more than 150 beers and ciders available for sampling from close to 20 breweries and cider makers. Alcohol not your thing? Well that same weekend there’s the seventh annual Coffee and Tea Festival: Valley Forge, scheduled for Dec. 14-15. Partake in samples while perusing more than 50 exhibitors.

Meantime, the wineries of the Bucks County Wine Trail are hosting an annual Holiday Celebration on Dec. 7-8. Seven wineries will offer spiced wine tastings, cookie sampling and artisanal cheeses while holiday music plays. Get some Chanukah shopping done with special discount pricing on wine gift packs, gift baskets and wine accessories.

5. Craft Show

Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood offers a chance to shop local at its community-wide 45th annual craft and gift show. Shop across more than 60 vendors at the synagogue from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 8. Admission is $3 for one person, but $5 for two. Happy shopping!

6. Sixers Vs. Miami Heat Game

Dec. 18 is game day when the 76ers take on the Miami Heat at 7:30 p.m. Join Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel as congregants head to the Wells Fargo Center. The synagogue has 30 tickets reserved, each $43. Call BZBI at 215-735-5148 for more information on how to reserve your spot. Make checks out to BZBI or Matthew Whitehorn at Dilworth Paxson, 1500 Market St., Suite 350E, Philadelphia, Pa. 19102.

7. Chanukah at KleinLife

The city’s largest senior center is getting into the holiday spirit. KleinLife: Northeast Philadelphia will serve a Chanukah meal at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 20 with entertainment by Sally Mitlas and the Budesa Brothers singing holiday tunes. Then an intergenerational Chanukah candlelighting is planned for 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 23.

8. Rittenhouse Square Candle Lighting

There are menorah lightings, and then there’s the annual ceremonial candlelighting of a giant menorah at Rittenhouse Square. The Jewish community of Center City will come together on the second night of Chanukah, 5 p.m. on Dec. 23, for the lighting and holiday treats. The event is sponsored by Center City Kehillah in cooperation with and funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

9. Lightings and Celebrations

Several area synagogues are getting in on the holiday spirit with activities and ceremonies of their own. The Congregations of Shaare Shamayim will host its annual Chanukah party at 6 p.m. on Dec. 23. There will be face painting, a magic show by Danny Archer of Smoke & Mirrors Magic Theater, balloons, potato latkes, sufganiyot and a menorah lighting, all free of charge.

Congregation Beth Or encourages families to bring their menorah to its Chanukah Community Candle Lighting and Glow Stick Shabbat Worship at 6:15 p.m. on Dec. 27.

And the City of Philadelphia will light up Boathouse Row along the east bank of the Schuylkill River with blue and white lights for Chanukah at 5 p.m. on Dec. 29.

10. National Museum of American Jewish History

While the Christians are away, it’s time for the Jews to come out and play. What better way to explore Jewish culture than to spend the day at the National Museum of American Jewish History. Dec. 25 is Being __ at Christmas, an event with live music from Alex & The Kaleidoscope, an interactive show aimed at children 4-8. So drop off the kids and use the opportunity to see the “Notorious RBG” exhibit on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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