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Celebrating light and hope in the darkness of winter

By Lorraine Graves

Published 1:30 PST, Thu December 19, 2019

Last Updated: 1:31 PST, Thu December 19, 2019

As darkness descends on us this time of year, seemingly earlier and earlier, later in December, around the winter solstice, comes a variety of celebrations of light. With Christmas, symbolizing Christ as the light of the world, trees and candles are lit. For ancient (and modern) Britons, Dec. 21 sees Morris Men don different costumes to symbolize the coming of the light as the days begin to lengthen again. 

In Judaism, Hanukkah, is the Festival of Lights. Also spelled Chanukah, each night of the eight-day festival, an increasing number of candles are lit on a menorah to symbolize the oil that lit the temple for eight days. In the Jewish faith, a great miracle happened there because there had been only enough oil for one day of light. 

While many Jewish holidays are celebrated at home and in a synagogue, Richmond welcomes all to gather round the 25 foot (7.62 metre) tall menorah each night of Hanukkah. 

“The menorah is so tall they have to go up in a cherry picker to actually access it,” says Kate Adams, the Richmond Public Library’s head of children and family services.

The festivities take place on Monday, Dec. 23, on the Cultural Centre plaza in front of Brighouse branch, located at 7700 Minoru Gate.

There will be family activities beginning at 5 p.m. followed by the lighting of the Menorah at 6 p.m. Then, all are welcome to stay and celebrate with traditional Jewish refreshments.

“But people are welcome every night of Hanukkah to witness the lighting of the Menorah at 6 p.m., with the exception of Friday night when the lighting will be at 3 p.m. so that it finishes before sundown,” Adams says. 

The event is jointly sponsored by the Bayit and Chabad Richmond Synagogues as well as the Richmond Public Library and the Richmond Cultural Centre. The event is funded by the Ebco Group and Lightspeed Inc.

Keith Liedtke, president of the Bayit Richmond, says “(We are) honoured to sponsor this year’s Jewish Festival of Lights, symbolized by the Arthur Erickson-designed Hanukkah Menorah, one of the largest in the world.” 

Speaking of the library’s reason for sponsoring this event, Adams says, “Part of it is to help learn about other cultures and faiths.”

Not Jewish herself, Adams is looking forward to the menorah lighting again. 

“Everyone is welcome to come. It’s amazing. It’s very exciting. There are lots of families The energy is really high. It’s very celebratory.”

While portions of the Monday celebrations are indoors at the cultural centre, the lighting is outside. 

“Dress for the weather because it will happen rain or shine,” says Adams. 

Liedtke says, “The Bayit welcomes all to witness the warmth and spirit of the Menorah lighting ceremony.”

This year, Hanukkah runs from Sunday, Dec. 22 and ends in the evening of Monday Dec. 30.

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