Jews around the world gathered Sunday night to mark the first of eight nights of Hanukkah – a joyous holiday symbolized by the lighting of menorahs, spinning of dreidels, fried latkes, and exchanging of gifts.
The Jewish holiday is known as “the festival of lights” and usually kicks off in late November or mid-December. The holiday commemorates the miracles performed during the Maccabean revolt against Israel’s Greek king, who wished to limit their religious practice and the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem.
President Biden marked the first night with a tweet, calling the story of Hannukah “one that is inherently Jewish and undeniably American.”
“At its core, Hanukkah recounts a story at the heart of the human spirit — one that is inherently Jewish and undeniably American,” he wrote. “From my family to yours, we wish you and your loved ones a Chanukah Sameach, a Happy Hanukkah!”
The president will be hosting a small in-person Hannukah party at the White House this week on December 1. The Hanukkah party has been a White House tradition since 2001 when it was first introduced by George W. Bush. The guest list often includes American Jewish community and faith leaders for a musical performance and menorah lighting in the East Room of the White House.
Vice President Kamala Harris did not post a Hannukah message of her own, but retweeted a photo of her and her husband Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish, lighting a menorah at the Naval observatory.
Harris’ Hannukah video message went viral last year for what critics called a “vague” and “bizarre” description of the Jewish holiday. Orthodox Jewish commentator Ben Shapiro at the time charged her with “ignoring the entire message” and presenting a “watered-down version of Hanukkah” because she is “not super fond of religious practice.”
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley wished her Jewish friends a “Chanukah Sameach” on Sunday and called the history of the holiday ” a story of perseverance, commitment, and above all, faith.
“Chanukah celebrates the Jewish people’s victory over their enemies who sought to eliminate their religious practice,” she wrote. “May the light of Chanukah pierce all the darkness in the world.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also marked the holiday on Twitter, writing “from my family to yours, we wish you and your loved ones a Happy #Hanukkah.”
The Festival of Lights begins on Sunday, November 28th and will conclude on Monday, December 6th.