With Christmas Eve and the first night of Hanukkah falling on the same day, the city is taking full advantage of a Philadelphia landmark to celebrate both holidays at once.
Philadelphia began celebrating the holiday season by illuminating iconic Boathouse Row with a 'Happy Chanukah' message. Red and green lights have been glimmering since the middle of December, but with the beginning of Hanukkah on Saturday, the houses along Kelly Drive underwent a transformation "into one of the largest representations of the Menorah in the nation," said Mayor Jim Kenney's office.
From Christmas Eve (which coincidentally is also the first night of Hanukkah this year) until New Year's Eve, Boathouse Row will be lit in blue and white lights, with one house in the middle representing the shamash candle. Each night, starting from right to left, another house will be illuminated until all nine buildings are lit up, representing the nine candles of the Menorah.
For the first time this year, a "Happy Chanukah" sign adorned with bright white lights to celebrate the holiday was set up on the roof of the Vesper Boat Club.
Boathouse Row expert Dotty Brown told the the Jewish Exponent she sees the idea of lighting up the Row for different holidays as a reflection of its changing history.
"We're a community of lots of different kinds of people," Brown said. "So, the more you can reflect the cultures of the city, the better off we are, the more we understand each other and the more we accept each other."
On Dec. 29, Kenney will host an event at the Fairmount Fish Ladder on Martin Luther King Drive for the sixth night of Hanukkah at 6 p.m. Martin Luter King Drive traffic will be shut down between Eakins Oval and Sweet Briar Drive so that attendees can walk to the gathering spot across from Boathouse Row.
The decision was made "in the spirit of inclusiveness and to highlight the diversity of the City of Philadelphia," said Kenney's office.