Chanukah (or Hanukkah) is the Jewish festival of rededication, also known as the festival of lights, that lasts for eight days starting on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.

Many Jewish groups say that Chanukah is not one of the most important Jewish holidays, but it is widely celebrated due to its proximity to Christmas.

This year the eight days and nights of Chanukah begin at sundown on Sunday, December 25th, and local synagogues and Jewish community members are beginning to celebrate.

In Hebrew, the term Chanukah stands for “dedication,” and commemorates the rededication of an ancient holy temple in Jerusalem.

The story goes that around 165 B.C.E., the Jews had been living under the rule of Antiochus, the Greek king of Syria, who had outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jewish people to worship Greek gods.

The Jews’ holy temple had been seized and dedicated to the worship of the supreme Greek god Zeus.

The jews revolted and after three years of struggle, triumphed over the Hellenist Syrians.

Upon the victory, Jewish general Judah Maccabee and his soldiers went to the temple and found it ravaged. They cleaned and repaired the temple and planned a rededication celebration. But they found themselves short of oil to keep the menorah lit for eight days. They could find only enough for one day. But miraculously, the menorah stayed lit, according to Jewish history.

Today, Jews celebrate Chanukah to commemorate the eight-day miracle.

Locally, public Chanukah celebrations are under way.

CHANUKAH FESTIVAL — The Chabad Jewish Center in the Del Rey area takes its Chanukah celebration out of the synagogue and into the public arena each year in an attempt to give more public visibility to the holiday and to Jewish culture.

Chabad’s annual Chanukah festival is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, December 26th, at the Center Court of The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, 6081 Center Drive, Westchester.

A giant menorah made from balloons will be the centerpiece of the event. In the past, the group displayed a giant menorah sculpted out of ice.

Rabbi Yossi Griesman is expected to make remarks on the holiday.

Activities and attractions at the event include a “craft your own menorah” activity, dreidels and gelt, doughnuts and latkes (potato pancakes), balloons and face painting, creating Chanukah cards and decorating Chanukah cookies. Admission is free.

Information, (310) 417-8500.

MENORAH LIGHTING — A community menorah lighting is planned on the first day of Chanukah, with a celebration starting at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, December 25th, at the Chabad of Marina del Rey, 2929 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey. Admission is free.

Entertainment will include a “Kumkitz” featuring singing by the Marcus brothers of the group The 8th Day. The pair will sing songs celebrating victory of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil burning in the temple for eight days.

The event is sponsored by Rabbi Danny and Sonya Yiftach who run Chabad of Marina del Rey. Chabad of Marina del Rey offers classes on Torah Portion, Bible Codes, Kabbalah, Jewish Law and Rashi as well as instruction on the Hebrew language.

Information, (310) 301-9770.

CHANUKAH PIZZA PARTY — A Chanukah pizza party and community celebration are planned on the fourth night of Chanukah, starting at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, December 28th, at the B’nai Tikvah Congregation, 8820 Sepulveda Eastway, Westchester.

Participants are asked to bring their own menorahs and candles to the event.

The pizza party will be followed by a candle lighting at 7 p.m. Fun and singing will be led by Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen. Dinner is $5 per person or $18 per family.

Reservations, (310) 645-6262.

PUBLIC LIGHTING — A public lighting of a giant Hanukkah menorah, followed by a Chinese dinner and film screening, is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Sunday, December 25th, in the Temple Mishkon Tephilo social hall, 206 Main St., Venice. The event will also include a silent auction. The Chinese dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Reservations, (310) 392-3029.

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