Rabbi Michael Rascoe, left, leads a group of celebrants in the ritual lighting of the menorah on the first night of Hanukkah. File Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead community will celebrate the first night of Hanukkah with a menorah lighting at the Peconic Riverfront park on Sunday, Dec. 22 at 5 p.m.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE, after a small army led by Judah the Maccabee drove the Greeks from Israel and reclaimed the temple. When they lit the temple’s menorah — a candelabra — they found only a one-day supply of olive oil that had not been contaminated by the Greeks. Miraculously, that one-day supply of oil lasted eight days, until a new supply of ritually pure oil could be prepared.

Every night during the eight-day holiday, a menorah is lit to commemorate the holiday. The menorah holds nine flames, one of which is the shamash (“attendant”), which is used to kindle the other eight lights. On the first night, the shamash is used to light one flame. On the second night, an additional flame is lit. By the eighth night, all eight flames are lit.

Special blessings are recited, often to a traditional melody, before the menorah is lit, and traditional songs are sung afterward.

A menorah is lit in every household and placed in a doorway or window. The menorah is also lit in synagogues and other public places.

All members of the community are welcome to join members of Temple Israel of Riverhead at the riverfront park Sunday evening to celebrate the holiday and light the menorah. Afterwards, participants are invited to Temple Israel on Ostrander Avenue to enjoy latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyots (jelly doughnuts). 

An additional bulb will be lit every night of the eight-day holiday until Dec. 30, when all lights on the menorah will be illuminated.

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Julia-Anna Searson
Julia-Anna is a Riverhead native and a recent graduate of Stony Brook University, with a degree in Biology and minor in Anthropology. She currently lives in Cutchogue.