Chanukkah is not Jewish Christmas as some describe. Chanukkah sometimes falls close to Christmas because of the lunar calendar, but it is its own rich holiday with its own history and celebrations. At the core of the celebration is the idea of freedom and light in the dark world.
Chanukkah has been mostly a home celebration, as Donna Mendelsohn, co-author of Napa Valley’s Jewish Heritage, explains it. Part of the reason for this is that Holocaust survivors were worried about being open with their celebration of their holidays. This was not just happening in Napa, but all over the Bay Area and around the country. With the passing of time, new generations started to celebrate more openly. Chanukkah stayed mostly a home celebration and the Jewish schools held Chanukah carnivals or plays for the kids. It just been in the recent years that we have started to see more open celebration of the holiday.
The earliest events in the Napa Valley that I can find were reported about in the Napa Register on December 5, 1959 in article letting the locals know what musical events were going on in the community. The article mentions that two Chanukkah musical events were taking place: The Judas Maccabaeus as a music drama by the University of California group at the Berkeley Little Theater and the Maccabean Arts Festival concert.
Below are photos of more recent celebrations. You can see some from Chanukah parties and Xmas Mitzvah Crew from the Congregation Beth Shalom. Some are of my family making Chanukkah candles for our menorah, which we do every year.
A special thank you to the Napa Valley Jewish Historical Society on their help with this post.