One of the most visible Jewish holidays in the United States, Hanukkah, will begin this year at sundown on Sunday, Dec. 2. In Hebrew, the word (which can also be spelled Chanukah, among many other variations) means “dedication,” to honor the rededication of the Holy Temple of the religion. The Jewish eight-day “festival of lights” is celebrated in the winter with family, prayer, food, and of course, the nightly menorah lighting.
On campus and across the world, people from the Jewish religion will be celebrating the holiday’s origin of the success of Hebrew forces against the Seleucid Empire in the second century B.C.E. After they forced out the Seleucids, who wished to convert the Jewish people to Greek culture, they wanted to light the menorah in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem after it was rededicated. However, the one-day supply of oil they had found lasted for eight days instead, and the Jewish continue to commemorate the miracle of the menorah lighting and the victory.
An integral part of celebrating Hanukkah includes lighting the menorah every night of the eight-day festival. For Jewish families, the menorah represents the original lamp lit at the temple in Jerusalem. It holds nine candles, with the extra candle, the “shamash,” being used to light the eight other candles. An additional candle is lit every night of Hanukkah, until all eight are lit on the final day. Special blessings and prayers are said as the candles are being lit, and the menorah is placed in a window to be left burning at least an hour after sundown.
Some families sing traditional songs afterwards, and eat fried foods to represent the oil from the Hanukkah’s origin story. Latkes, a fried potato pancake, is a popular and recognizable dish that many eat for the festival. There is also the tradition of giving small gifts every night, which might include Hanukkah “gelt,” which is money.
UConn organizations will be commemorating Hanukkah in their own exciting ways. Chabad at UConn, the Rohr Jewish Student Center, will be hosting a menorah lighting in Storrs Center, at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 4, complete with hot latkes. They will also be hosting nightly menorah lightings at Chabad.
“Hanukkah is amazing because it reminds me of good times with my family,” Maggie Hausman, a first-semester ACES student, said. “At home, we would light the menorah and give presents and usually eat latkes. Here, I obviously can’t light candles, but I am still getting in the spirit with a fake menorah in my floor’s lounge and a sign on my door. There are also some great holiday programs and activities through Jewish organizations on campus, like Hillel and Chabad, that I plan on attending.”
Whether you are Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah, or you know someone on campus will be celebrating, the festival is always an exciting and fun part of UConn’s holiday season.
Hollie Lao is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.