National Menorah lighting celebrates first night of Hanukkah

The annual National Menorah lighting was held on Sunday south of the White House.

A long line of people waited to be seated before the National Menorah lighting on Sunday.

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff lit the first candle of the National Menorah.

The tradition of the lighting dates back to 1979, when Jimmy Carter was president. President Ronald Reagan would designate the candelabrum the National Menorah.

People traveled from around the region to see the lighting.

People line up and have their bags checked before entering the “National Menorah” to listen to Washington’s military bands perform during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah lighting ceremony in front of the White House in Washington, DC, November 28, 2021. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

People line up before entering the “National Menorah” to listen to Washington’s military bands perform during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah lighting ceremony in front of the White House in Washington, DC, November 28, 2021. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

People listen to the Washington Military Bands “National Menorah” during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah ceremony in front of the White House in Washington DC on November 28, 2021. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

A large menorah is seen next to the Washington Monument at the National Mall, during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in Washington, DC, November 28, 2021. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

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People from near and far traveled to downtown D.C. Sunday afternoon for the annual National Menorah lightning ceremony on the White House Ellipse.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff lit the first candle. He is the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president: “Let us remember, always, that Jewish history is American history,” he said to the crowd.

Jennifer Horowitz traveled from New Jersey and was excited to bring her kids.

“Our kids actually have off for Thanksgiving and for the first days of Hanukkah so we thought we’d come … I grew up here, so I thought I’d bring them back here so they could see the nation’s capital,” Horowitz said.

Courtney Bay and her family came from Rockville, Maryland.

“My sister found these tickets online. We said we have lived here our whole lives and we have never done this and we should really do this. It would be really fun and cool,” Bay said.

Jay Wechsler, also a Rockville resident, attended for the first time with his grandsons and his wife.

“We’re looking forward to all of the music,” he said.

His wife said they had visited D.C. and seen the National Menorah lit later in the eight days, but they’d never seen it on the first day.

“We’re looking forward to the whole ceremony,” Nancy Wechsler said. “This is the greatest city in the world, and to be here this night after being confined and to be able to be with people, especially with our four grandsons, is just mighty special.”

One of their grandsons, Zach Cantor, said he was excited to experience something for the first time with his family.

“I think it’s going to be really cool. I haven’t done it before and I’m excited,” Cantor said. “It’s going to be really cool to be together.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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