Rahm Emanuel Lights Hannukah Candles at White House

In message last week, Obama called Hannukah a time for 'all faiths to celebrate common aspirations'.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel lit the National Menorah on Sunday afternoon in celebration, as Jews around the world celebrate third night of Hanukkah.

The ceremony marks the 30th anniversary of the first National Menorah lighting in 1979, a ceremony attended by then-president Jimmy Carter.

Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Second Temple in Jerusalem in 164 B.C. after its desecration by the Syrian-Greeks. The eight-day festival began on Friday.

Emanuel, who is Jewish, was the guest of honor at the lighting on the Ellipse in front of the White House. He stood in a cherry picker to light it in front of more than 1,000 onlookers on a cold, rainy day.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday sent out a Hanukkah message of his own, saying that the story of the Maccabees "reminds us that faith and perseverance are powerful forces that can sustain us in difficult times and help us overcome even the greatest odds."

Hannukah is "not only a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but for people of all faiths to celebrate the common aspirations we share," he said.

"May Hanukkah's lessons inspire us all to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, to find light in times of darkness, and to work together for a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow."