Hanukkah begins at sundown today, and a special lighting ceremony is planned at the National Hanukkah Menorah near the White House on the first night of the eight-day Jewish holiday.
The lighting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Organizers say thousands of people are scheduled to attend. “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band will perform, according to The Associated Press.
The national menorah lighting dates to 1979 when Jimmy Carter was president. President Ronald Reagan dubbed it the “National Menorah.”
In Hebrew, the word “hanukkah” means “dedication.” “The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.,” according to About.com.
“According to Jewish law, Hanukkah is one of the less important Jewish holidays. However, Hanukkah has become much more popular in modern practice because of its proximity to Christmas.
“Hanukkah falls on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Since the Jewish calendar is lunar based, every year the first day of Hanukkah falls on a different day – usually sometime between late November and late December. Because many Jews live in predominately Christian societies, over time Hanukkah has become much more festive and Christmas-like. Jewish children receive gifts for Hanukkah – often one gift for each of the eight nights of the holiday.
“Many parents hope that by making Hanukkah extra special their children won’t feel left out of all the Christmas festivities going on around them.”