The local Jewish community will observe Hanukkah, the “Festival of Lights,” starting at sundown on Sunday and continuing through Monday, December 6.
The holiday is marked by a nightly menorah lighting and is Judaism’s commemoration of the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after the Maccabean’s victory over the Syrian army in 165 B.C.
According to the story of Hanukkah, Judah Maccabee and his soldiers wanted to light the temple’s ceremonial lamp with ritually pure olive oil as part of their rededication but found only enough oil to burn for one day. The oil, however, burned for eight days in what was held to be a miracle.
Hanukkah — which means “dedication” in Hebrew — is observed around the world by lighting candles in a special menorah called a Hanukkiah each day at sundown for eight days, with an additional candle added each day.
The reason for the lights is so passersby should see them and be reminded of the holiday’s miracle.
Rabbi Chaim Hanoka of the Pasadena Chabad said the festival is about bringing light into darkness.
“Hanukkah is a celebration of the lights of the menorah bringing and enhancing the light that we have in our world.”
“Every one of us needs to add an act of goodness and kindness, even on a small level, but cumulatively, it will have a tremendous impact and make this world a better place to live in,” he said.
Other Hanukkah traditions include spinning a dreidel, a four-sided top, which partially commemorates a game that Jews under Greek domination are believed to have played to camouflage their Torah study, and eating foods fried in oil, such as latkes, pancakes of grated raw potatoes and jelly doughnuts.
Children receive Hanukkah “gelt” (the Yiddish word for money) from parents and grandparents. The tradition originated with 17th-century Polish Jews giving money to their children to give their teachers during Hanukkah, which led to parents also giving children money.
In the United States, the practice has evolved into giving holiday gifts to children and others.
Unlike on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, or Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, observant Jews are permitted to work and attend school during Hanukkah, the only Jewish holiday that commemorates a military victory.