Waterville’s Beth Israel Congregation held its Hanukkah celebration Sunday with the lighting of the candles, singing of traditional songs and feasting on foods fried in oil such as latkes.

The eight-day festival of lights began at sunset Sunday, Dec. 22, and ends at sunset Monday.

The festival commemorates the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees defeated the Seleucid dynasty, Syrian-Greeks who ruled Israel in the wake of the breakup of Alexander the Great’s empire, in the second century BC.

When the temple’s menorah, its candelabrum with many branches, was to be lit, only enough consecrated olive oil for one day was available, yet it burned for eight days until more oil, uncontaminated by the Seleucids, could be produced.

In those dark days, it was important for the light to persist as it is an important act of goodness in these days.

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