The history of the celebration of Hannukah in America is complicated. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, immigrant Jews, seeking to become “American,” often neglected Hannukah, adopting certain Christmas rituals in their place. At this time, rabbis and other Jewish leaders argued vigorously for the observance of Hannukah, emphasizing its importance in Jewish tradition and memory. Later on, in the mid-20th century, Jews began to observe Hannukah with great enthusiasm, leading to rabbinic comments that Hannukah is meant to be a “minor” holiday, not a “Jewish Christmas.” (For a detailed account of these developments, see Jenna Weissman Joselit, The Wonders of America, pages 229-243).
During this period, Hannukah menorahs grew more and more diverse and creative. Many were produced inexpensively, to facilitate the observance of the holiday in more homes. But the Hannukah menorah was a Jewish ritual object that many Jews considered worth investing in, leading to the production of many notable, “high-end” such lamps as well.
Chabad has also promoted large public celebrations of Hannukah, erecting and lighting huge Hannukah menorahs around the world.
Chabad Menorah, Sydney, Australia:
US National Menorah:
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro lights the menorah in Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 12, 2012.