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Menorahs lit around the world for the first night of Hanukkah

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, second from right, is assisted by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, second from left, and Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, right, as they light the National Hanukkah Menorah during a ceremony on The Ellipse in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011 marking the first night of Hanukkah.

 

By msnbc.com staff

Jews around the world on Tuesday night began celebrating Hanukkah, the eight-day Festival of Llights.

It has nothing to do with Christmas, it's just celebrated around the same time.

Known as the Festival of Lights, it's to remember another miracle which dates back thousands of years.

Hanukkah began after a war for religious freedom between the Jewish people and the Greeks.

The small Jewish army won but not after their temple was defiled, leaving just a small can of oil that also miraculously provided eight days of light.

Rabbi Kalman Winnick of Congregation Agudath Achim in Little Rock, Ark., told NBC station KARK, "To this day we remember the miracle of the oil as well as the miracle of the few defeating the mighty, as well as the miracle of people caring enough about their faith to struggle for it.”

Around the world, as sunset arrived, Jews in their homes and in community-wide ceremonies lit the first candle on menorahs, the nine-candle holders used for lighting first a special candle, and using that candle to light a candle noting each night of the holiday.

In Washington, D.C., Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew helped lead the lighting of the National Hanukkah Menorah at The Ellipse. Similar ceremonies were held at Trafalgar Square in London and Jerusalem, Israel.

Luke Macgregor / Reuters

Crowd members join in for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah in Trafalgar Square in London, Dec. 20, 2011.

Mehdi Fedouach / AFP - Getty Images

A giant screen shows an image of Lubavitcher Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson during the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, on December 20, 2011 at the Champs de Mars in Paris.

Odd Andersen / AFP - Getty Images

Rabbis Yehuda Teichtal (R) and Shmuel Segal of the Jewish education centre inaugurate the Chanukkah lights in front of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 20, 2011.

Bela Szandelszky / AP

Members of Hungary's Orthodox Jewish community dance on the street while celebrating the beginning of the Hanukkah Festival in downtown Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011.

Abir Sultan / EPA

An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish family as they lights a candle for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, Israel, Dec. 20, 2011.

Abir Sultan / EPA

An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man lights the candles outside his house during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, Israel, Dec. 20, 2011.

 

Previous images of Hanukkah on PhotoBlog.