Bay Area Begins Hanukkah with Sundown Celebrations

December isn't just about Christmas

Saturday, Dec 8, 2012  |  Updated 7:11 AM PDT
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Saturday at sundown marks the start of the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and some Bay Area residents will be celebrating by lighting the first candle of the menorah, or candelabra.

In San Francisco, the Festival of Lights, which commemorates the tale of triumph of a small band of Jewish fighters over the Syrian Army, will start shining brightly at Ghirardelli Square Saturday night.

The Jewish Learning Institute of San Francisco and the Jewish movement group Chabad have teamed up to light a 9-foot menorah at 6 p.m. at the square located at Beach and Larkin streets.

There will be music and food at the second annual family-friendly event, organizers said. Also in San Francisco, the first night of a 37-year tradition at Union Square will kick off with a lighting ceremony of a 25-foot mahogany menorah at 6 p.m. as part of the Bill Graham Menorah Project.

Jewish hip-hop artist Matisyahu will be lighting the menorah at 7 p.m. before the start of his acoustic Hanukkah tour at the Masonic Center at 8 p.m., event organizer Brian Webster said.

A holiday festival will be held the following day at the downtown plaza starting at 3 p.m. with Mayor Ed Lee, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and other dignitaries expected to arrive in time for Sunday's 5 p.m. lighting.

There will be a memorial at Sunday's festival for the event's namesake concert promoter Bill Graham's sister, Ester Chichinsky, who recently passed away. Chichinsky was a Holocaust survivor, Webster said.

The lighting ceremony will continue each night at 5 p.m. at Union Square, except for a 3 p.m. lighting next Friday, until the last night on Dec. 15 when the holiday tradition since 1975 will take on something new, Webster said.

At 6:30 p.m. the final night a smaller 10-foot menorah will be lit on the second floor of the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall at 865 Market St. A final night celebration will follow with Hanukkah treats, dreidel spinning and other family-friendly activities at the free event. In other parts of the Bay Area, Hanukkah will begin Saturday night with plenty of food, music and dancing and lights at the Bankhead Theater in downtown Livermore.

A lighting ceremony will be held at 7:30 p.m. at 2400 First St. with hot chocolate, potato latkes, doughnuts and a menorah lighting with Livermore Mayor John Marchand and other local dignitaries expected to attend. More Hanukkah celebrations will continue on Monday at the Stoneridge Shopping Center in Pleasanton at 5:30 p.m. with music and holiday balloons, followed by a 6:30 p.m. lighting of a 9-foot menorah.

President Barack Obama issued a statement today wishing those celebrating Hannukah a happy holiday, or "chag sameach" in Hebrew, from his family.

"This holiday season, let us give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, and remain mindful of those who are suffering," the president said in the statement. "And let us reaffirm our commitment to building a better, more complete world for all."

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