This year Jewish families will be lighting the first candle of Chanukah on Sunday. In Ashland, the eight days of festivities will begin with both Temple Emek Shalom and the Havurah hosting parties complete with Menorah lighting, latkes, dreidel playing, songs, stories and crafts for children.

This year Jewish families will be lighting the first candle of Hanukkah on Sunday. In Ashland, the eight days of festivities will begin with both Temple Emek Shalom and the Havurah hosting parties complete with Menorah lighting, latkes, dreidel playing, songs, stories and crafts for children.

A first annual "Best in Shul" latke contest will be held at Temple Emek Shalom. It is open to everyone who would like to bring samples of their favorite latke recipe.

At the Havurah Hanukkah Faire, children will be able to make their own beeswax candles and Hanukkah Menorah. Rabbi David Zaslow will be leading a community candle lighting.

On the second night of Hanukkah, Monday, Dec. 22, the Chabad of Southern Oregon will be lighting a 10-foot Menorah on the Plaza in downtown Ashland with Mayor-elect John Stromberg.

The Chabad will also be hosting "Hanukkah on Ice" at The RRRink in Medford on Tuesday afternoon where there will be free ice skating and the lighting of a 4-foot Menorah ice sculpture.

"We are always looking for new ideas to keep both adults and children on the edge of their seats, and we want to bring the spirit of the Hanukkah holiday alive for all," said Rabbi Avi Zwiebel, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon. "We felt that a Menorah made from ice was a unique way to commemorate this happy holiday that everyone will remember."

The eight-day festival was declared to commemorate the rededication of the Temple after its destruction in 164 B.C. and the miracle of oil used for the Temple's Menorah that lasted for eight days even though it was only enough for one. Traditional foods served during Hanukkah are potato pancakes fried in oil called "latkes" and "sufganiot" or fried doughnuts.

At Hanukkah parties, children enjoy playing games of dreidel. A dreidel is a top with the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin on it. These letters are an acronym for the Hebrew "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham" which translates as "a great miracle happened there." Dreidel players try to win "gelt" or gold coins filled with chocolate.

Many families may exchange small gifts during Hanukkah. Ellen Falkner, a member of Temple Emek Shalom, looks forward to spending time with her family and friends.

"I enjoy tasting the different latke recipes people make," Falkner said. "It's also fun to light all of the Hanukiahs (Menorahs) that my children have made in different programs over the years, along with the ones we got as wedding gifts and the one that belonged to my father. I love the warmth and light of this celebration in the dark of winter."

Schedule of Hanukkah Events:

Temple Emek Shalom's Annual Hanukkah Party

Sunday, Dec. 21 at 4 p.m.

1 p.m. — Latke cooking for the party in the kitchen of Temple Emek Shalom

4 p.m. — Crafts for kids

5 p.m. — Menorah lighting, Hanukkah songs and stories

6 p.m. — "Best in Shul" Latke Contest judging and community potluck

Participants in the "Best in Shul" Latke Contest should bring their best latkes to compete with other families and see whose latkes are voted the tastiest by their peers. There will be two categories: "Traditional" and "Original Creations" such as using sweet potatoes, zucchini, etc. The entry fee for the contest is $5 and the winner will be awarded a prize.

For the community potluck, people are invited to bring a dairy or vegetarian dish with enough to serve 12 people.

Everyone is invited to bring a Menorah and candles to participate in the community candle lighting.

The entrance fee for this celebration is $3 per person or $8 per family.

Temple Emek Shalom, 1800 East Main Street, 488-2909, emekshalom.org

Havurah's Annual Hanukkah Faire

Sunday, Dec. 21 at 4:30 p.m.

Children will make their own beeswax Hanukkah candles and a Hanukkah Menorah. Greenleaf Latkes will be available for purchase with all the trimmings.

The Hanuukah Gift Shop will be open.

Rabbi David Zaslow will lead the community candle lighting and song.

Everyone is invited to bring a Menorah and candles to participate in the community candle lighting.

The entrance fee for this celebration is $2 per person.

Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 N. Mountain Ave., 488-7716, havurahshirhadash.org

Chabad of Southern Oregon's Menorah Lighting on the Plaza

Monday, Dec. 22 at 5:30 p.m.

Join hundreds of people and Mayor-elect John Stromberg on the Plaza in downtown Ashland as the 10-foot Menorah is lit in memory of Rabbi Gabi and his wife, Rivkah Holtzberg and the other victims of Mumbai, India.

There will be latkes available for purchase, music, entertainment and a gift shop.

A tent with heaters will be set up to keep everyone warm.

Chabad of Southern Oregon's Hanukkah on Ice

Tuesday, Dec. 23 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

At The RRRink, 1349 Center Drive in Medford

Free ice skating — skate rentals included — to Jewish music.

Carving and lighting of a giant 4-foot Menorah ice sculpture

Hot latkes and hot chocolate will be available for purchase.

Hanukkah Music & Movement Program for Moms and Tots, ages 0-5.

Heated rooms for non-skaters

Donations are appreciated to help cover costs.

Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon, 804 Hillview Drive, 482-2778, chabadofashland.org.