Hanukkah begins at sundown tonight. It celebrates the freedom the Jews from the Assyrians 2,200 years ago. Led by the Maccabees, a family of five sons, the Jews marched to Jerusalem and their temple there.

They found the temple vandalized by the Assyrians Worse yet, the Eternal Light, a lamp that Jewish law requires burn day and night, was flickering ominously. There was enough oil left to burn for one more day -- but miraculously, the small tin of oil lasted eight days, giving the Jews times to replenish their supply. That's why Hanukkah lasts eight days and why it's a joyous holiday.

You can join in a Hanukkah celebration on Sunday. The Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington is holding three -- in Rockville, the District and Burke -- all from 1 to 5 and all free.

At Rockville Jewish Community Center from 1 to 5, the 25-MILE MARCH of the Macabees to Jerusalem will be re-enacted across the terrain of the gymnasium. The distance to Jerusalem will be marked off on a giant wall map.There'll also be traditional latkes (potato pancakes) to eat, Hanukkah music and stories (at 1:30, 2:45 and 4), and a ceremony to light the large JCC menorah as twilight falls. Call 881-0100.

Israeli folk dancing and music and a Hanukkah cafe will take place at the Lafayette School, Broadbranch and Northhampton Roads NW. The afternoon ends with a SINGALONG of holiday and traditional songs. Call 966-3236.

And in Virginia, at the Lake Braddock School, in Burke, you can enjoy traditional Hanukkah foods and songs on ROLLER SKATES. There'll be a rink and skate-rental set up. Two groups of non-rolling Israeli dancers will perform. Call 573-7377.

The motto of the JEWISH HUMANISTS, a group that keeps the traditions while dispensing with much of the ritual, is: you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Hanukkah. They'll celebrate on Sunday, 1 to 4, with dancing and singing and piles of potato pancakes at the Mount Vernon Community Mental Health Center, 8119 Holland Road, Alexandria. Call 365-2548 or 684-8897.

Ther are three CONCERTS of Hanukkah music coming up. On Sunday at 3, "Traditions OF HANUKKAH" will be presented by the U.S. Navy Band, through music and narration of the holiday's history. The free concert takes place in the Departmental Auditorium (Constitution Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets NW). Call 433-2394.

The Shir Chadash Choir is part of the Kennedy Center holiday festivities; they perform songs on Thursday at 8:30.

And on Sunday, December 23, the Zemer CHAI CHORUS sings folk, traditional and even Renaissance Jewish music, in Hebrew, Yiddish and English. It's at the National Visitor Center at 1. Call 523-5300.