In a swelling tide of tinsel and Bing Crosby, Hanukkah sometimes seems like a mesh bag of gold foil-wrapped afterthought. Yet the very theme of the Festival of Lights is survival, and the panoply of options for Hanukkah activities in the region demonstrates that this holiday refuses to go quietly into the fake snowy night. Here are some ways to keep the lights burning:
Lighting ceremonies. Re-creating those flames that wouldn't quit, lighting ceremonies abound on the eve of the holiday on Tuesday - at sundown at Suburban Square, 6 Coulter Ave., Ardmore (information: 610-896-7560, suburbansquare.com); at 6 p.m. at Lansdale's Railroad Plaza, 201 W. Main St. (pa-lansdaleborough.civicplus.com/), and at 4:30 at Norristown's Elmwood Park Zoo, 1661 Harding Blvd., with stories, games, crafts, and more (1-800-652-4143, elmwoodparkzoo.org).
Barclay Farms Shopping Center on Route 70 North in Cherry Hill will hold its lighting on Wednesday at 6 p.m. with live music from the Cherry Hill West Marching Band and food from the Barclay Cafe (856-874-1500, thechabadcenter.org).
Family-friendly parties. The Chanukah Extravaganza at the Jewish Community Center at 45 Haverford Rd. in Wynnewood lives up to its promises, with a full day of activities on Dec. 21. On the roster are dreidel spin art, cookie decorating, magic, face painting, story time, live music, and moon bounce and other inflatable gym toys - not to mention customary eats like latkes, doughnuts, and gelt (610-896-7770, phillyjcc.com).
Though there's no mention of a Zamboni in the original temple, that's no reason not to enjoy Chanukah on Ice, a special open session at Havertown Skatium, 1002 Darby Rd., from 2:30 to 4:40 p.m. on Dec. 21 ($10 per person, including skate rental; 610-660-9900, chabadmainline.org).
Hooray for Hanukkah day at Garden State Discovery Museum, 2040 Springdale Rd., Cherry Hill (noon Dec. 21), includes crafts, stories, snacks, and a live concert ($12.95 admission to museum; 856-424-1233, discoverymuseum.com).
The Renaissance Group sponsors a Young Family Hanukkah Celebration at the National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 S. Independence Mall East, 10 a.m. to noon Sunday. Tickets ($25 per family) cover a menorah lighting, art projects, songs, sufganyiot (doughnuts), and entry to the museum's holiday exhibit (215-923-3811, nmajh.org).
From the Maccabees to Lou Reed. Wondering how the American-style celebration of "Jewish Christmas" came to be? The " 'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah" exhibition at the National Museum of American Jewish History answers the question with artifacts and a high-tech living-room installation that brings the popular music of the holiday to life ($11 ages 13 to 21; $12 adults).
Lots of latkes. What would Hanukkah be without the miracle of fried food rendered from limited amounts of oil? On Dec. 17 and 18 at Sbraga, 440 S. Broad St., a holiday schnackdown includes such delicacies as an everything bagel roll with salmon roe; schmaltz confit carrots with walnuts and figs; brisket with sweet potato latkes and braised cabbage, and cinnamon and sugar doughnuts with applesauce sorbet ($75 per person; an addition $50 for beverage pairings is also available. 215-735-1913, sbragadining.com).
The Chanukah 5775 feast on Tuesday at Zahav, 237 St. James Place, begins with pumpkin tehina and smoked egg salad and ends with gelt by Éclat chocolate ($54 per person; 215-625-8800, zahavrestaurant.com).
In Conshohocken, Isabella at 382 E. Elm St. serves up a five-course prix fixe ($35 per person) from Tuesday through Dec. 23. Diners can expect Israeli hummus, parsnip and sweet potato latkes, smoked salmon flatbread, and pomegranate brisket, plus a choice of dessert (484-532-7470, barisabella.com).
Over in Fairmount, London Grill at 2301 Fairmount Ave. fires up its traditional 8 Days of Latkes. For the duration of the holiday, the menu features potato, onion, and schmaltz, sweet potato-carrot-ginger, and goat cheese and mushroom latkes, plus jelly doughnuts for dessert (215-978-4545, londongrill.com).
Speaking of doughnuts, Federal Donuts at 1632 Sansom St. (215-665-1101, federaldonuts.com) and 701 N. Seventh St. (267-928-3893, federaldonuts.com) offers 20 honey-dipped mini doughnuts with raspberry jam for $15, by preorder only.
There are those who require spirits for holiday spirit, and for that there's an eight-night event at Devil's Den, 1148 S. 11th St. (215-339-0855, devilsdenphilly.com). Hanukkah with He'Brew (also known as the "Chosen Beer") is slated for Dec. 23, with eight beers from the Shmaltz Brewing Co. based in San Francisco and New York served on tap, plus dreidels, gelt, latkes, and other surprises.
Live entertainment. For two nights (Monday and Tuesday), 1812 Productions presents "Improvukkah," improv comedy with a holiday theme, at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Pl., Center City ($25; 215-592-9560, 1812productions.org). On Dec. 19, neo-Sephardic band DeLeon plays an Art After 5 concert at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, sponsored by the Collaborative and Tribe 12 (free with museum admission; 215-684-7506, philamuseum.org).
Failing all the above, there's always a performance of Bad Jews at Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St., through Dec. 28. Because guilt, gelt - same difference, right? (215-574-3550, walnutstreettheatre.com).