On Sunday, Dec. 22, hundreds of residents will kick off the holiday of Chanukah to observe the kindling of the menorah, at Light Up Downtown, which has become one of the largest Chanukah celebrations in the region, said Rabbi Bery Schmukler, co-director at Chabad Jewish Center of Las Cruces.
The event begins at 4:30 p.m. at Plaza de Las Cruces. It’s free, open to all.
“The purpose of this event is to bring the entire southern New Mexico community together,” Schmukler said. "Chanukah is a holiday of light and freedom, where few overcame the many, and light triumphed over darkness. It is even more important, in the world we find ourselves today, to come together in order to spread light and goodness with which to combat this darkness."
In conjunction with the Las Cruces Fire Department will be a Chocolate Gelt Drop, where parachutes complete with dreidels, menorahs and chocolate coins will be tossed to the crowd from the top of an extended firetruck ladder. A live concert by Isaac Gordon of Los Angeles will enhance “a night full of spirit and joy,” Schmukler said.
Other offerings include a moon bounce, free raffles and giveaways, arts and crafts, hot cocoa and the traditional jelly doughnuts and hot potato latkes. Heaters and chairs will be set up.
Light Up Downtown marks the first of eight nights of the Chanukah festival, the rabbi said. The event’s super-sized menorah will be lit as part of Chabad’s 10th annual event.
“Menorah is the Hebrew word for lamp,” according to www.myjewishlearning.com, “and specifically refers to the seven-branched candelabrum that was used in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. The Hanukkah lamp contains room for nine candles — one for each night (of the celebration), plus the shammash or helper candle. Lighting the candles is Hanukkah’s most central ritual.” It comes during the Hebrew month of Kislev, which usually corresponds to the month of December, according to the website.
“Chanukah celebrates the Maccabees’ (Jewish rebels who were descendants of Jewish priest Matthias and his sons, including Judah) rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its defilement by the Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE,” the website continues. “According to rabbinic tradition, the holiday also commemorates the miracle of the oil: one day’s supply of oil for the Temple’s lamp lasted eight days.”
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