Hanukkah started at sundown Tuesday. And members of Ohr HaTorah, Charlotte's Orthodox Jewish community, celebrated with a 40-car parade (complete with police escort) and then a lighting of the menorah – a nine-branched candelabra – at SouthPark mall.
Hanukkah, an eight-day holiday that is also called the Festival of Lights, will end at sundown Dec. 20.
The holiday marks the Maccabees' military victory over Greek Assyrian oppressors in the second century B.C.E., restoring Jewish religious and political freedom.
The Maccabees were a Jewish family. With the re-dedication of the Temple after the victory, only one vessel of pure oil was found to rekindle the Temple's great candelabra. It was enough to burn one night, but – miraculously – it burned for eight nights. That's why Hanukkah is called the Festival of Lights.
On Hanukkah, children get gifts and play with dreidels (Yiddish for spinning toy tops). Potato latkes are among the signature dishes for the holiday.