David Delbarba and his friends are marking Hanukkah in a big way.
Wednesday night, the fourth night of the Jewish festival of lights, members of Beth Hallel Messianic Fellowship gathered in the driveway of Delbarba's home on South Fairmont Avenue to light an 8-foot-tall wooden menorah, spin dreidels, dance and eat traditional Hanukkah fare.
As darkness washed over Lodi, Delbarba and his daughter climbed a ladder and lit the torches that serve as candles on the menorah, starting with the shamash, or helper candle, and igniting the four torches from right to left. Members of the fellowship - a mix of Jews and gentiles who believe Jesus is the messiah - then recited the candle-lighting blessings, first in Hebrew then in English.
This is the first year Delbarba has lit a menorah.
After all, he's Christian. But he took an interest in Hanukkah after joining Beth Hallel a year ago and researching the eight-day holiday that marks the Jews recapturing the Jerusalem Temple around 165 B.C. Delbarba said he chose to build the menorah and invite friends over as a way to show Christianity's ties to Judaism.
"I just believe it is important for Christians to understand the roots of our faith," Delbarba said, adding that several bible prophecies show Hanukkah-related connections between the two religions.
A menorah is essentially a nine-pronged candelabra, with eight candles representing the eight days a small amount of oil kept a menorah lit in the Jerusalem Temple after it was retaken.
The ninth candle, which sits slightly higher than others, is lit first and used to light other candles. Delbarba said that represents Jesus giving light to the faithful.
The giant menorah has attracted attention of passersby, just as Delbarba hoped it would, he said.
"They're kind of amazed that a Christian is celebrating Hanukkah and is not Jewish," he said.
Following Wednesday's candle-lighting, the two dozen people at Delbarba's home broke out in song and dance in the driveway as the menorah burned.
Five-year-old Amanda Schmierer liked the giant menorah.
"We love Hanukkah," she exclaimed, gleefully throwing her hands in the air.
Delbarba could only find one bottle of pure lamp oil at any stores in Lodi - a chance throwback to the oil shortage the Jews faced at the first Hanukkah.
He hopes he can keep the torches lit.
"I think it's going to make it," he said.