(CNN) - The South Lawn of the White House was illuminated Wednesday as thousands were expected to attend the National Hanukkah Menorah lighting, celebrating the start of the Jewish lunar calendar on the first night of Hanukkah.
Thursday, the beginning of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, carries unique significance as it marks the last time for 70,000-plus years the two holidays will fall on the same date.
The President and First Lady wished the nation a happy "Thanksgivukkah," to mark the rare occurrence, in a statement issued by the White House.
"As we gather with loved ones around the turkey, the menorah, or both, we celebrate some fortunate timing and give thanks for miracles both great and small," Obama said.
The eight-day holiday of Hanukkah represents the Jewish people's resolve to preserve their religion. The President said it is in that spirit that he and the First Lady, "look forward to joining members of the Jewish community in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world as we work together to build a future that is bright and full of hope.”
"Since the earliest settlers here, generations of Americans, no matter their particular faith, have celebrated Thanksgiving and the religious freedom it projects on our nation," said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), the organization privately sponsoring the event, in a statement.
"It is particularly fitting this year, as publicly lighting the Menorah on Chanukah is precisely in the spirit of the Founding Fathers, who began their life in this great country by giving thanks to our creator and religious freedom to their fellow Americans."
The ceremony included a musical performance violinist Miri Ben-Ari as well as the United States Air Force Band with "The Three Cantors."
wonder if Obama invited Netanyahu ?
Where are the "Freedom from Religion" folks to file a lawsuit? I thought we were not supposed to have religious symbols on public property. On what date will President Obama be setting up the "National Nativity Scene?"
No doubt the GOP will begin to rant that Obama prefers Jews to Pilgrims.