ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The local Jewish community will celebrate the final night of Hanukkah this year with a very public and bright celebration at Balloon Fiesta Park on New Year’s Eve.
There will be a mini balloon glow to celebrate the end of the Jewish holiday followed by music and dancing featuring the Jewish musical group “8th Day.”
The event, Chanukah Menorah Glow, will start at 7:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve. Organizers will light nine hot air balloons placed in the shape of a menorah at the start of the event. The balloons will represent the nine flames on the menorah. The festivities will shift inside Pilots Pavilion Hall for hors d’oeuvres and the show that will end at 10:30 p.m. Mayor Richard Berry is scheduled to attend.
Chabad of New Mexico is organizing the event led by Rabbi Chaim Schmukler. The Jewish celebration follows the Hebrew calendar, which is based on the moon’s rotation around the earth. Every year Chabad organizes a public lighting of a large menorah. In years past, Schmukler said the lighting was done on Civic Plaza in Downtown Albuquerque.
He said this year is unique because the last night of Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, coincides with New Year’s Eve so the group decided to do a larger event.
Schmukler said this is the first time he’s aware of that hot air balloons have been used to create a massive menorah.
Schmukler said Hanukkah is about sharing light with the world so it’s fitting the final candle is done publicly and with a treasured New Mexican tradition. “We are supposed to use what is special about us, our talents, to make the world a brighter place,” he said.
Schmukler said organizers are expecting around 1,000 visitors, with a group of 45 coming all the way from Mexico for the event.
Volunteer Amy Lapidus-Pedram said the celebration holds even more significance right now because of the division among people in the country.
“The whole meaning of Judaism is to spread light and repair the world,” she said. “… We want this event to be a community thing and for people to come together.”