MIDTOWN — It's one of the most-anticipated public events of Hanukkah: The lighting of the world's largest menorah at the edge of Central Park.
At 32 feet tall, the 4,000-pound menorah, operated by the Lubavitch Youth Organization, was lit at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the corner of East 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, in celebration of the first night of the Jewish Festival of Lights.
But for some who came out for the spectacle, it was a disappointment not to see the lighting just after sundown.
"8:30 is too late, it's supposed to be 5:30, it's supposed to be very special," said Michael Alterman, 78, of Manhattan. "We're not going to wait — we can't stay for three hours."
Sandra Martel, 59, visiting from Miami Beach, said she was glad to see the menorah, even if her Broadway tickets got in the way of the lighting ceremony.
"We thought it would happen earlier," she said. "It's nice that everything is Christmas-y but this is a litte bit of Hanukkah, too," she said, about the decorations lighting up the Fifth Avenue corridor.
Her husband Marcos Martel, 64, agreed.
"I think it's very nice for the city to do this, quite nice!" he said.
The other candles will be lit after sundown through the week, according to tradition, at 5:30 p.m. A spokesperson for the Lubovitch Youth Organization was unable to be reached for questions regarding the time schedule for the lighting.
Following the Saturday lighting, groups will play live music, and offer singing and dancin, as well as supply some traditional hanukkah food.
The giant menorah was designed by contemporary Israeli artist Yaacov Agam, and in past years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has at times attended the lighting.
This year, Bloomberg shared his sentiments on the holiday beforehand in a statement, and praised other New Yorkers who have faced adversity.
“Hanukkah is a special time of year to spend with friends and family, and it’s a story of strength in the face of adversity and moral courage in the face of injustice," he said.
"In recent weeks, the people of New York have also had our strength and spirit tested... New Yorkers of every background and from every borough have stepped up in amazing ways to help their neighbors," he said.
"New York is a city where, even in the toughest of times, we have faith in the future. As New Yorkers light the menorah tonight, I wish them a Happy Hanukkah.”