Menorahs Light Up For Hanukkah

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LOS ANGELES (KTLA) - Observant Jews in the Southland began lighting candles at sundown Tuesday to mark the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day "Festival of Lights."

Southland Hanukkah events include a menorah lighting nightly though next Tuesday on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade and the nightly lighting of the Menorah at the Westfield Century City.

Nightly events at the Third Street Promenade will feature live music and Menorah lighting ceremonies at sundown.

The Westfield Century City will host a Chanukah Festival on Thursday from 5-7:30 p.m. and will feature kosher treats and an ice sculpture.

New Yorkers gathered Tuesday night, lighting a massive menorah outside the south side of Central Park. The nine-branched candelabra is 32 feet tall, 28 feet wide, weighs 4,000 pounds, and is considered the world's biggest, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The eight-day celebration, also known as the "Festival of Lights," commemorates the Maccabees' victory over a larger Syrian army in 165 B.C.

Once the Jews defeated the Hellenist Syrian forces of Antiochus IV at the end of a three-year rebellion, the temple in Jerusalem, which the occupiers had dedicated to the worship of Zeus, was rededicated by Judah Maccabee, who led the insurgency begun by his father, the high priest Mattathias.

Maccabee and his soldiers, who wanted to light the temple's ceremonial lamp with ritually pure olive oil as part of their re-dedication, found only enough oil to burn for one day.

However, in what was regarded as a miracle, the oil burned for eight days.

Hanukkah -- which means dedication in Hebrew -- is observed around the world by lighting candles in a Hanukkah menorah each day at sundown for eight days, with an additional candle added each day.

The reason for the lights is so passers-by should see them and be reminded of the holiday's miracle.

Other Hanukkah traditions include spinning a dreidel, a four-sided top, which partially commemorates a game that Jews under Greek domination played to camouflage their Torah study, and eating foods fried in olive oil, such as potato pancakes 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 a gift-giving holiday to prevent Jewish children from feeling left out of Christmas gift-giving.

Unlike 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, which, in Judaism, is regarded as a relatively minor holiday. It is the only Jewish holiday that commemorates a military victory.

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