Hundreds celebrated Hanukkah with free food and music and the lighting of the menorah in downtown Charleston Sunday, including many who weren’t Jewish.

This was the first year the Charleston Holiday Parade ended in Marion Square, which was also the venue for the ninth annual Chanukah in the Square. As a result, a lot of extra people who weren’t Jewish joined the celebration.

Rachael Deardorff of West Ashley, who attended a Presbyterian church Sunday morning, said she brought 3-year-old daughter Amelia to Marion Square so she could learn more about Jewish tradition.

Whatever the reason, there was plenty of food, and everybody said they welcomed the visitors.

“It’s a multicultural event,” said Phyllis Katzen, chairman of the board of Addlestone Hebrew Academy. “I think it’s wonderful.”

Martin Hoxenhorn, who was giving away soft drinks for Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, agreed. His only requirement was that everyone had to say please and thank you.

“No 1, it teaches good manners,” he said. “And No. 2, it helps people understand that Hanukkah is joy and giving.”

Of course the festival’s main goal was to encourage Jews to become more involved with the community. About two dozen Jewish organizations set up tables explaining what they had to offer.

Linda Krawcheck and Evaline Delson, members of the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, went a step further. Usually they hand out literature to stop domestic violence. This year they dressed up as dreidels and spun and danced among the crowd.

The menorah lighting was also an ecumenical event. Rabbi Yossi Refson of Chabad of Charleston & the Lowcountry was joined by Anita Zucker, educator, philanthropist and chief executive officer of The InterTech Group; Holocaust survivors Joe Engel and Dientje Adkins of Charleston; Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell; and state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, a Charleston Democrat.

Zucker pointed out that this is the biggest annual gathering of Jews in the state. She also noted this year’s new sponsor, Bi-Lo rather than Piggly Wiggly.

“We’ll miss the irony of having Piggly Wiggly as our title sponsor,” she said.

Refson also noted the new sponsor and reminded everyone that Hanukkah is a story of “a victory of the few over the many, the weak over the strong. … We warm the world by each of us lighting our own candle of hope and holiness …. We repair the world in small steps.”

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.