Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights has kick started all over the world with the lighting of the first candle in the menorah on December 20.
In London, a giant Hanukkah menorah was displayed with lighted candles in the Trafalgar Square and thousands of people gathered around it to watch the display. The menorah would be displayed till December 28. Similar ceremonies were held in Washington D.C. on the Ellipse outside Whitehouse, near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Brandenberg Gate in Berlin and in Jerusalem, Israel.
In Berlin, 10 synagogues had hosted candle-lighting celebrations Tuesday night, attracting thousands of residents, tourists and VIPs, said the Chabad.org website.
Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights, celebrated for eight days, according to the Hebrew calendar and starts on the 25th day of Kislev. The word Hanukkah means "dedication" or "induction," and the first date of the festival falls on any date between November 26 and December 28.
The festival is celebrated with reverence by the Jewish community across the world with lighting of the first candle of the Menorah, a nine-branched candelabra. One additional branch would be lighted on every passing night reaching the eighth one on the final night of the celebration.
According to the Jewish theology, Hanukkah is based on two miracles dating back to thousands of years. First, it depicts the victory of a small Jewish Army called "Maccabees" against the Greeks who tried to forcibly convert Israelis to Polytheism. It also denotes the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by the Greek invaders.
Another myth refers to a small amount oil that could last only one night, but miraculously provided eight days of light.
"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," the MSNBC.com has quoted Rabbi Kalman Winnick of Congregation Agudath Achim in Little Rock, Arkansas, telling NBC station KARK.
An oil menorah is considered preferable to a candle menorah as the miracle of Hanukkah happened with a little cruse of olive oil that lasted for eight days. The special Shabbat rules specified that a menorah should be lighted for about 30 minutes on weeknights and up to one and a half hour on Friday evening, according to Chabad.org.
There were occasional incidents of Neo-Nazis trying to disrupt the Hanukkah in different parts of the world. In 2010, a group of men waved Swastika flags at the congregants of the southern California synagogue, it has been reported. Similarly in 2009, in Hungary, there were reports of masked men wearing swastika symbols and iron crosses shouting abuses to the members who were celebrating Hanukkah.
Going back to the history, during the first day of Hanukkah, 15 Jews were shot dead by the Nazis in the courtyard of Warsaw Ghetto prison on December15, 1941.