Observing holidays seems destined to remain virtual only amid health restrictions

CALGARY — Celebrating the holidays Alberta appears to remain as it was announced by the government on Tuesday — with no social gatherings allowed even through Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza

Hanukkah begins Thursday with the lighting of the first candle on a menorah — the eight-day holy celebration in the Jewish Faith comes mere days after the government of Alberta introduced sweeping restrictions on gatherings and reduced places of worship to just 15 per cent of fire code capacity.

The new rules take effect after midnight on Saturday.

Premier Jason Kenney spoke about the urgency of holiday celebrations during a social media address Wednesday night, alluding to further information to come from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“She may be coming forward with advice (on Thursday) on how family groups can, if it’s desperately important for (family groups) to have family visitors at Christmas time to see whether we could follow the lead of other jurisdictions in allowing for a 14-day pre-quarantine period for families who feel compelled to do that. So stay tuned for additional direction,” Kenney said.

However, Dr. Hinshaw did not announce any additional accommodations during her media briefing on Thursday.

“Typically this would be the beginning of eight days celebrating the Festival of Lights with loved ones but since that isn’t possible this year, many groups have put plans in place for safe meaningful celebrations that respect the public health restrictions in place.”

She added, “yes, COVID-19 has disrupted Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa plans, but it doesn’t need to ruin the holiday.”


This year many in the Jewish faith community are celebrating virtually as traditions of gathering with family and friends for meals is not allowed under the new restrictions.

“(The) Calgary Jewish Federation supports and expects strict adherence to the guildelines put forth by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer. In respect for the current restrictions, we are proud of our community for adapting to guidelines that require us to celebrate creatively in a virtual manner,” said Jared Shore, co-president of the Calgary Jewish Federation.

In an e-mailed statement he described some examples of adherence:

●  Synagogues providing packages for home-based celebrations

●   Zoom-hosted community menorah lighting

●   Virtual magic shows and dance parties for families to join from home

Rabbi Mark Glickman is also encouraging his congregation to participate in the numerous menorah lighting ceremonies to be streamed online, and additions events on the Sabbath.

“We’re doing all kinds of things in order to stay connected in all but the physical sense because the connections and the relationships that we have with one another are the most important things we in a religious community can offer,” he said.


One Calgary Jewish family took advantage of warm weather over the weekend, and gathered on a backyard patio to mark some Hanukkah traditions.

“Our family decided that would be a great opportunity to be outside because the regulations at that point was still 10 people,” said Tamar Zenith.

She ordered donuts to be delivered to her parents and her brother’s households which the family of nine will share virtually for the first evening of Hanukkah celebrations.

“We have the ability to be together virtually which is the name of the game during COVID-19.”

Members of the Calgary Chapter of Chabad Lubavitch will light the lamps on a large menorah at Heritage Park Thursday at sundown.

In previous years the event has been held at Calgary City Hall with 4-600 attendees.

The group is also delivering menorah light kits to 2,500 homes so that the first light can be lit in individual households while following along with a web livestream.

The premier’s office also released a statement saying the glow of the menorah is a symbol of hope for us all.

“It’s a reminder that despair does not win. Courage and steadfastness are strong enough to overcome it – and they will again in Alberta, just as they did in the land of Israel more than two millennia ago. Days of light and happiness will return to our province.”

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