Jewish communities will start celebrating Hanukkah this weekend with public events including car parades across Greater Manchester planned next week.

The Jewish festival of light, which lasts eight nights, involves lighting candles on a menorah, eating fried foods and playing with spinning tops called dreidels.

Candle lighting events will be held across the city-region with lit-up cars parading in different parts of Greater Manchester on each of the eight nights.

A menorah will be lit in St Peter’s Square on Sunday (December 18) to mark the first night of the festival alongside other events across the city-region.

Cars carrying menorahs above them will parade across different parts of Greater Manchester all week including Prestwich, Cheadle and the city centre.

And the first ever Hanukkah "drone light show" will take place at Heaton Park.

Rabbi Shneur Cohen of Chabad said the "proud" public displays for the festival of light is a response to the ‘worrisome’ rise in antisemitism across the world.

He said: “Hanukkah is all about bringing light and warmth.

“It’s about freedom over oppression, light over darkness.

“That’s the message of the menorah.”

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates the story of the Maccabees – Jews who rebelled against King Antiochus, the Seleucid ruler of Judea and Samaria.

In the second century B.C. modern-day Israel was ruled by the Seleucids who were Greek-Syrian. They tried to force the Jews not to follow their religion.

A small band of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, rose up and defeated them.

After they liberated the second temple, a miracle was said to have happened.

A multi-branched candelabra known as a menorah was lit and despite the Maccabees only finding a small drop of oil, enough to burn for one day, the oil ended up lasting for eight nights – enough time for more oil to be resupplied.

When is Hanukkah?

The "festival of light" usually falls in December, but as it follows the Jewish lunisolar calendar, it can fall in late November or coincide with Christmas.

The celebration takes place in the longest and darkest month of the year.

To mark the miracle, Hanukkah lasts for eight days, starting on the 25th of Kislev, four days before the new moon – the darkest night of the month.

This year, the evening of Sunday, December 18 marks the start of Hanukkah.

The eight-day celebration will end on the evening of Monday, December 26.

How is Hanukkah celebrated?

The traditional celebrations of the Jewish wintertime ‘festival of lights’ involves a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and foods fried in oil.

One extra candle is lit each night until all eight are burning on the final night.

Each candle on the nine-branch candelabra, which is called the hanukkiah , is lit by the shamash – a special candle which sits a higher or lower than the rest.

Children play with dreidels – square spinning tops – marked with one of four Hebrew letters on each side which stand for “a great miracle happened there”.

The dreidel gambling game stems from the Greek-Syrian rule when Jews were prevented from studying the Torah, the Hebrew bible, and so whenever a soldier walked by, they would play with dreidels to hide their learning.

As the Hanukkah miracle involved oil, it is customary to eat foods fried in oil – traditionally in Europe this includes potato latkes and jam-filled doughnuts.

How will Hanukkah be celebrated in Greater Manchester?

The lighting of the menorah will take place at St Peter’s Square today, Sunday (December 18) at 6pm in an event that will be attended by civic dignitaries.

Mount Street will be closed at the back of Central Library to aid parking during the community-led event which is expected to last approximately one hour.

There will also be a menorah lighting and a concert with "Jewish superstar" Shloime Gertner at Manchester Fort on the same night from 7pm to 8pm.

On Monday (December 19), there will be menorah lighting with a special effects fire and laser display at the Tesco car park in Prestwich from 7pm.

Tuesday (December 20) will see another menorah lighting for the third night at Heaton Park which will include the first ever Hanukkah drone show at 3.30pm.

Throughout the week there will be car menorah parades, starting in Prestwich on Sunday (December 18) and continuing on each night except Friday in Liverpool, Crumpsall, Bury, Cheadle, Manchester city centre and Whitefield.

What do you say at Hanukkah?

There are different spellings of "Hanukkah", which is often spelt "Chanukah", because it is a Hebrew word which is not easy to transliterate into English.

To wish someone a happy Hanukkah, you can say Hanukkah Sameakh which is pronounced sah-MEY-akh using a hard "k" sound from the back of the throat.

Marc Levy, chief executive of the Jewish Representative Council, said the Greater Manchester community is always "delighted" to celebrate Hanukkah.

He said: “The Menorah being lit in central Manchester serves as a beacon of light right in the heart of the city.

“We are a confident, proud and vibrant community and it is always a pleasure to see such a visibility identifiable symbol of Judaism adorning the Manchester skyline.

“We are grateful to the Lord Mayor and everyone at Manchester City Council for facilitating this important and symbolic event for our community.”