Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama on Thursday celebrated the Jewish holiday of Hannukah a bit early, holding a White House reception more than a week before the eight-day festival begins.
"We're jumping the gun just a little bit," Obama told several hundreds guests at the event taking place 12 days before Hannukah starts on December 20. "The way I see it, we're just extending the holiday spirit."
The president warned that "we do have to be careful that your kids don't start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight."
Speaking a day after Republican presidential contenders criticized his policies on Israel, Obama prompted applause by declaring in his brief remarks "our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel."
According to the White House, the more than 500 invited guess included legislators, rabbis, authors, military families and leaders of the American Jewish community.