Dec. 2 (UPI) — Sunday marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish wintertime “festival of lights.”
U.S. President Donald Trump issued a statement, sending “warmest greetings to our Jewish brothers and sisters in the United States, in Israel, and around the world” on behalf of himself and first lady Melania Trump. The statement remembered the 11 people who were slain in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue earlier this year.
“Unfortunately, Jews today continue to face many different forms of violence, hatred and bigotry around the globe. We remember all those from the Tree of Life — Or L’Simcha Congregation — whose lives were tragically taken in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this past October,” Trump said. “As one nation, we pledge our continued love and support for the victims, their families, and the community, and we pray that the victims’ families find some measure of peace and comfort during this holiday season.”
The Hebrew word “Chanukah” means “dedication” and the holiday commemorates a small group of Jews who drove the Seleucids out of Israel and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE, according to Chabad.
Upon attempting to light the temple’s menorah, they found only a one-day supply of oil, which lasted for eight days until new oil could be prepared.
Hanukkah takes place during the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in December, and a menorah is lit nightly over the eight-day period in every household and placed in a window or doorway.
“The menorah holds nine flames, one of which is the shamash (‘attendant’), which is used to kindle the other eight lights. On the first night, we light just one flame. On the second night, an additional flame is lit. By the eighth night of Chanukah, all eight lights are kindled,” Chabad said.
On Friday, workers installed the world’s largest menorah, standing 32 feet tall and weighing 4,000 pounds in front of the Plaza Hotel near New York City’s Central Park.
“Over the coming days, may the warming glow of each candle on the menorah help fill homes and hearts with love and happiness. Together, we reaffirm the truth that light will always break through the darkness,” Trump said in his statement.
Other traditional activities include playing the dreidel game, eating foods fried in oil, such as the potato latke, and giving gifts.
The White House traditionally holds a party in celebration for Hanukkah, which Trump hosted for the first time last December.
Plans for this year’s party have not yet been announced.