In an unusual twist of two calendars, Christmas eve and the first night of Hanukkah coincide Saturday.
While Christmas eve is always on Dec. 24, the Jewish traditional calendar changes the dates of Hanukkah each year in relation to the commonly accepted calendar.
Christmas eve will be marked by numerous religious services in Southern California, as well as other celebrations such as a multi-cultural concert at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Hanukkah, Judaism’s eight-day commemoration of the temple rededication that followed the Maccabees’ victory over a larger Syrian army in 165 B.C., begins at sundown Saturday.
Public menorah lighting ceremonies are planned for the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, the Sherman Oaks Galleria and City Walk in Universal City. Once the Jews defeated the Hellenist Syrian forces of Antiochus IV at the end of a three-year rebellion, the temple in Jerusalem, which the occupiers had dedicated to the worship of Zeus, was rededicated by Judah Maccabee, who led the insurgency begun by his father, the high priest Mattathias.
According to the story of Hanukkah, Maccabee and his soldiers wanted to light the temple’s ceremonial lamp with ritually pure olive oil as part of their rededication but found only enough oil to burn for one day. The oil, however, burned for eight days in what was held to be a miracle.Thus, Jews celebrate the eight days of Hanukkah.
Three Christmas Eve Masses will be celebrated at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Saturday, with Archbishop Jose H. Gomez presiding over a bilingual Christmas Midnight Mass.
The Midnight Mass celebrating the birth of Jesus will be livestreamed via facebook.com/olacathedral. It will be preceded by a program of Christmas carols sung by the cathedral’s English-language choir beginning at 11:30 p.m.
A Christmas Eve Family Mass will be celebrated at 4 p.m., a Spanish- language Mass at 7 p.m. and an English-language Mass at 9 p.m.
Christmas Eve services at the La Crescenta Presbyterian Church at 3 and 5 p.m. will include nativity animals.
Christmas Eve in Los Angeles will be also be marked by the 57th annual Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration, billed by organizers as the county’s largest multicultural holiday celebration.
The celebration will be held from 3-6 p.m. at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center. It will feature 21 music, dance and choral ensembles totaling more than 500 performers.
Highlights include the Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company with a folklorico dance from the Tabasco, Mexico, region; the Harmonic Bronze Handbell Ensemble, performing the classical handbell repertoire celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah; and the Latin Jazz band Cuba L.A. performing selections from its Christmas album, “Navidad Cubana.”
Admission and parking are free. Doors open at 2:30 p.m.
The celebration will be televised live by KOCE-TV Channel 50 and online at pbssocal.org and replayed from 9 p.m.-midnight Saturday and noon-3 p.m. Sunday.
More information about the celebration, including complete program information, is available at HolidayCelebration.org or by calling (213) 972- 3099.
— Staff and wire reports