LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com)  —  Chanukah, Judaism’s eight-day commemoration of the Maccabees’ victory over a larger Syrian army in 165 B.C., begins at sundown Sunday.

Public menorah lighting ceremonies are planned for the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica (5:45 p.m.) and the Two Rodeo shopping complex in Beverly Hills (6:30 p.m.)

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Chanukah commemorates “the first fight ever for religious freedom,” according to Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein, the president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

“In a world where we have such unfortunately blatant intolerance and such blatant disregard for alternative views, the fact that our ancestors fought for freedom and won allowed freedom to happen for all people,” Feinstein said.

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“If the Maccabees had not been victorious, there would never have been Judaism and there never would have been a faith called Christianity either because Jesus would never have been born a Jew. We have the Maccabees to thank for the modern understanding of monotheism,” Feinstein says.

According to the story of Chanukah, Maccabee and his soldiers wanted to light the temple’s ceremonial lamp with oil as part of their rededication but found only enough oil to burn for a day. The oil, however, burned for eight days in what was called a miracle.

Chanukah — which means dedication in Hebrew — is observed around the world by lighting candles in a special menorah called a Chanukah (or Hannukah) each day at sundown for eight days, with an additional candle added each day.

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Other Chanukah traditions include spinning a dreidel, a four-sided top, which partially commemorates a game that Jews under Greek domination and believed to have played to camouflage their Torah study. The traditions also include eating foods fried in oil, such as potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts.