A 15-foot, 1,000-pound menorah will be lit Sunday night at Universal CityWalk to mark the second night of Hanukkah, Judaism's eight-day "Festival of Lights" commemorating the Maccabees' victory over a larger Syrian army in 165 B.C.
The 11th annual celebration organized by Chabad of Studio City is traditionally Southern California's best-attended Hanukkah celebration. See the attached Patch video from the 2010 celebration.
It will be held from 6-9 p.m. and include performances by Jewish rock bands and Hasidic music from the 8th Day, Piamenta "The Next Generation," Pini Cohen and the LA Cheder Boys Choir.
The menorah lighting is scheduled for 7:40 p.m., with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Controller Wendy Greuel, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Councilman Dennis Zine among those lighting candles.
Other public candlelighting ceremonies today will be at Farmers Market at Third Street and Fairfax Avenue from 2:30-5 p.m.; Nokia Plaza at L.A. Live from 6-6:30 p.m. where actor David Arquette will help light an 800-pound menorah ice sculpture and the band Hollywood Klezmer will perform; and the 2 Rodeo Drive shopping complex in Beverly Hills from 7-8:30 p.m.
A youth-oriented Hanukkah celebration will be held at the Santa Monica Place shopping center from 10 a.m.-noon, with arts and crafts, live entertainment, story telling and treats.
"Hanukkah is a time to enjoy family and friends, remember heroic sacrifices, to renew our commitment to the great state of Israel, and to rejoice in the festival of light and happiness," Villaraigosa said Friday after lighting a candle as part of the 27th annual City Hall menorah lighting ceremony.
In his Hanukkah message, President Barack Obama said "Hanukkah is a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but it is also an opportunity for people of all faiths to recognize the common aspirations we share."
"This holiday season, let us give thanks for the blessings we enjoy and remain mindful of those who are suffering," Obama said. "And let us reaffirm our commitment to building a better, more complete world for all."
According to the story of Hanukkah, 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 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 Hanukiah 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 giving holiday gifts to children and others, akin to Christmas gift-giving.
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.