The history behind the celebration dates back more than 2,000 years to the victory of the Jewish army of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, which had tried to make the Jews renounce their faith, said Rabbi Richard Schechter of Glendale Temple Sinai.
"The Maccabees rose up and rebelled and stood up for the Jewish religion," Schechter said.
Today, the meaning of this holiday is just as applicable as back then, as international turmoil reminds people of the importance of freedom, Backman said.
"In the scope of international politics, this reverberates more important than ever," he said. "It becomes more meaningful to me and hopefully to others."
An important symbol of the holiday is the Hanukkah menorah — a candelabrum that carries nine candles.
History behind the Hanukkah menorah dates back to the end of the Maccabees battle, where they went to a temple in Jerusalem and lighted a candle with only enough oil to last one day, Schechter said. But the candle burned through for eight full days and that miracle is celebrated with eight of the candles — the ninth candle is used to light the others.
"And of course, there are eight days of gifts," Backman said, with a laugh.
The gifts are a tool that allows younger faith practitioners to learn to appreciate the importance of the holiday, he said.
To celebrate the holiday this year, the Chabad Center is going to hold an event on Sunday in the Glendale Galleria with entertainment for families and children.
"We're going have a grand family festival at the Glendale Galleria, with a 10-foot menorah, face-painting for the kids and one of the [city] council members speaking," Backman said.
The celebration will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the court outside of JCPenney, with City Councilman Frank Quintero as the honorary guest to light the menorah.
"I am always honored to participate in this holiday ceremony with the Chabad congregation that has done so much work in the city of Glendale," Quintero said.
ROBERT S. HONG covers public safety and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at robert.honglatimes.com.