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Chabad of Las Cruces’ 13th annual Mega Chanukah Celebration begins at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, at Plaza de Las Cruces, 100 S. Main St. downtown.
The celebration will include U.S. Congressman-elect Gabriel Vasquez lighting the tallest menorah in the region, an 18-foot menorah depicting the Organ Mountains, said Chabad of Las Cruces Co-Director Chenchie Schmukler.
The menorah is lit to celebrate the first day of Chanukah, Dec. 18-26, 2022.
The event is free and open to the public.
It also will include a live performance by Mariachi Jalisciense, “a phenomenal 10 person mariachi band who will mix the traditional mariachi music with Jewish music,” Schmukler said.
The celebration will also include live train rides throughout the plaza, extreme rides and inflatables for all ages, Schumukler said.
There will be crafts, face painting, games and a balloon artist for children. Every child will receive a free Chanukah tee shirt.
There will be other giveaways and a Chanukah pop-up shop with candles, menorahs and holiday gifts. There also will be four flavors of gourmet latkes with toppings (corned beef, pastrami and others), sufganiot (traditional fried donuts) and other goodies.
“This year's chocolate gelt will be dropped from the top of the (Las Cruces Fire Department) fire truck ladder with new glow-in-the-dark dreidel (spinning top) and menorah parachutes,” Schmukler said. “And the incredible Odd-Lab will warm us all with their three best fire jugglers for an epic fire show! And 3-D glasses will turn all the lights on the plaza into dreidels.”
Mega Chanukah is a project of Chabad Jewish Center of Las Cruces, funded by a grant from Jewish El Paso.
“Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime ‘festival of lights,’ celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods,” Alevy Chabad said on its website. “The Hebrew word Chanukah means ‘dedication,’ and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple. Also spelled Hanukkah (or variations of that spelling), the Hebrew word is actually pronounced with a guttural, “kh” sound, kha-nu-kah, not tcha-new-kah.”
“In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks),” the website said. “Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God. When they sought to light the Temple's Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity. To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah.”