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Alexandria Celebrates The Festival Of Lights

(Monday) December 6, 2010

By Carla Branch

Chanukah began on December 1 this year,  and although the City did not light the large outdoor menorah until last night, many Alexandrians are celebrating the entire eight-day Festival of Lights,





Craig Fifer lights the Menorah. (Photo: James Cullum)


the minor Jewish holiday that commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil. Chanukah begins on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.

The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights on a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The typical Menorah consists of 8 branches with an additional raised branch. The extra light is called a shamash and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for use, as using the Hanukkah lights themselves is forbidden.

Rabbi Newman lighting the Menorah (Photo: Artis Mooney)

Rabbi Newman lighting the Menorah.(Photo: Artis Mooney)


Every year, Alexandria’s E-Government Manager Craig Fifer holds a Chanukah party at his Old Town home. On Saturday Fifer’s friends of all faiths came to celebrate and learn about the Festival of Lights. He served latkes and other traditional Chanukah snacks and asked guests to bring nonperishable goods for a local food pantry.

Delegate David Englin and Vice-Mayor Kerry Donley look on as Rabbi Newman struggles to get one of the Menorah candles lit on this cold and blustery Sunday night. (Photo: Artis Mooney)

Alexandrians who weren’t lucky enough to be invited to Fifer’s party were invited to the lighting of the City’s outdoor Menorah at the Holiday Inn Crown Plaza last night. Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Mordechai Newman presided over the ceremony, which he began six years ago at a rug store on King Street. Vice Mayor Kerry Donley and Virginia State Delegate David Englin participated in the cold,windy service and then joined participants inside for a Chanukah feast.

Craig Fifer's Hanukkah party at his Old Town home, Saturday, December 4, 2010. (Photo: James Cullum)

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