Chanukah at the Polish Presidential Palace.

“Thank you all very much! As we celebrate this festival, the Hanukkah festival on the centenary of Poland’s regained independence, we meet as a community of people living in Poland, as a community of those who constitute Polish society, who wish to be together,” said Andrzej Duda.

The president added that Polish Jews have been part of the great Polish tradition for over one thousand years of our common history: “These comprise beautiful moments and hard to bear moments, as well as many people who have left their permanent mark on Poland’s history having  become an important element of Polish culture, Polish tradition,” stated President Andrzej Duda at the Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony, with the First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda in attendance.

The president also noted that on 11 November he awarded the posthumous decoration of the Order of the White Eagle to two Polish Jews: Baruch Steinberg, chief rabbi of the Polish Army murdered by the NKVD in Katyn as a Polish officer, and Janusz Korczak, an admirable model of humanism and care for the youngest.

In the Jewish calendar, Chanukah always begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev; in the Gregorian calendar, its celebrations fall between November and December; they all last for eight days. This year’s Chanukah runs from December 2nd to 10th. The holiday commemorates the victory of Maccabees over Greeks. When Greeks conquered Jerusalem, their ruler Antiochus the Fourth forbade observance of Jewish rites and ordered persecution of all failing to comply with the prohibition; he also established the cult of a Hellenistic deities in the Temple of Jerusalem. The Jews defeated the invaders in December 164 BCE.

Chanukah is one of the most joyous of Jewish holidays, celebrated for eight days. Every day after dark, Jews light one additional candle on chanukiah, a nine-branched candlestick. The auxiliary ninth arm of that menorah holds shamesh, a candle from which the other ones are lit.

The tradition of lighting the Chanukah candles at the Presidential Palace dates back to 2006. The  custom was established by president Lech Kaczyński and continued by president Bronisław Komorowski.