Bannerman Park will be the site of one of the world’s largest Hanukkah observances on Sunday.
Chabad of Newfoundland and Labrador will participate in the event by lighting an eight-foot Hanukkah menorah erected in the park. After it has been lit, the celebration will continue with a community-wide celebration marking the first night of the eight-day holiday.
The ceremony, organized by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Chanan Chernitsky, will feature St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Chief Joe Boland, amongst others. Following the menorah lighting ceremony, attendants will sing and eat traditional Hanukkah foods.
“The menorah serves as a symbol of St. John's dedication to preserve and encourage the right and liberty of all its citizens to worship freely, openly and with pride,” Chernitsky stated in a news release. “Canada (is) a nation that was founded upon and vigorously protects the right of every person to practice his or her religion free from restraint and persecution.”
This year the world marks more than 50 years since the Rebbe — Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson — initiated the Mitzvah Campaigns, a historic undertaking that brought Jewish observance and celebration to the streets, laying the groundwork for public menorahs and the worldwide Hanukkah campaign that he set in motion in 1973.
“The message of Hanukkah is the message of light,” Chernitsky said.
“The nature of light is that it is always victorious over darkness. A small amount of light dispels a lot of darkness. Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference.”
The unprecedented public display of Hanukkah has become a staple of Jewish cultural and religious life.
The St. John's menorah is one of more than 15,000 large public menorahs sponsored by Chabad in more than 100 countries around the world — including in front of landmarks such as the White House, the Eiffel Tower and the Kremlin — helping children and adults discover and enjoy the holiday message.
Hanukkah begins this year on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 2 and concludes the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 10. It recalls the victory of a militarily weak Jewish people who defeated the Syrian Greeks who had overrun ancient Israel and sought to impose restrictions on the Jewish way of life and prohibit religious freedom.
They also desecrated and defiled the Temple and the oils prepared for the lighting of the menorah, which was part of the daily service. The Jews, upon recapturing the Temple, found only one jar of undefiled oil, enough to burn only one day, but it miraculously lasted for eight days.
In commemoration, Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting an eight-branched candelabra known as a menorah.
Today, people of all faiths consider the holiday a symbol and message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter and of light over darkness.
Chabad of Newfoundland offers Jewish education and social service programming for families and individuals of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations.
For more information about Hanukkah and a local schedule of events, residents can contact Rabbi Chernitsky at 986-8770 or visit www.chabadnfld.org.