Students celebrate early Hanukkah away from home


Photo Courtesy of Chenspec/Wikimedia Commons

A person lights a candle on a menorah for Hanukkah at night. Students at the University have smaller celebrations for the Jewish holiday on campus because the eight-night event does not fall over winter break.

By Cecilia Milmoe, Staff Writer

While the Christmas season is only just beginning, for students who celebrate Hanukkah, the eight-night holiday is nearing its end. This year, Hanukkah began Nov. 28 and will end Dec. 6, the earliest the holiday can be.

Hanukkah, which many American Jews celebrate in place of Christmas, can start as early as the end of November and as late as the end of December. Due to the holiday’s early start and the return to in-person courses, many students are experiencing their first Hanukkah away from their families.

Deborah Bodansky, junior in LAS, said things are different for her this year.

“I haven’t really gotten used to celebrating Jewish holidays on my own while on campus,” Bodansky said. “For the past year and a half, before the semester started, I was at home, and I would celebrate all the holidays with my family.”

Bodansky said that to her and her family, Hanukkah isn’t a big deal. Danielle Guralnick, freshman in Education, shared similar feelings.

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    “It’s not that big of a deal, compared to other holidays like Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah,” Guralnick said. “We usually do a Hanukkah party with the family and do gift exchanges and stuff like that, but it’s not Christmas level.”

    Natalie Weissburg, freshman in LAS, said with Hanukkah beginning so early this year, it might feel less important.

    “I think it always felt more special when it was around Christmas because it was like ‘Well now I have something to celebrate and don’t have to feel bad because everybody else is celebrating Christmas,’” Weissburg said. “I’d at least like there to be snow for Hanukkah.”

    Bodansky held a similar sentiment, explaining that being away has changed how she is celebrating the holiday.

    “I feel like when Hanukkah falls on winter break or a time when I’m home with my family I do tend to celebrate it more,” Bodansky said. “But when it happens when I’m away at school, the weeks just tend to blend together.”

    While it may be different on campus, Bodansky, Guralnick and Weissburg all said they are finding their own ways to celebrate.

    “Just a little, minor celebrations with other people,” Guralnick said. “But nothing as big as what I do at home.”

    Guralnick also explained that her upcoming finals may limit how much she celebrates on the final night.

    “I think I’m just going to be busy with finals,” Guralnick said. “So I don’t think I’ll have the time to do anything super big.”

    Bodansky shared similar feelings, saying that she hasn’t had much time this semester to have larger celebrations.

    Bodansky, Guralnic, and Weissburg all said that since they couldn’t celebrate the holiday in person, they celebrated in some way over Thanksgiving break.

    Guralnick explained that since Hanukkah is not as important as other holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, she enjoys it as a more casual experience.

    “With the other really big holidays of the year in Judaism, those all feel more serious while this one’s more fun,” Guralnick said. “Which I like, even if it isn’t that big of a deal.”

    Everyone celebrates Hanukkah differently, and Weissburg said she feels she won’t ever celebrate it the same way now that she is away from home.

    “It feels like now that I’m never going to be just living with my family again, it almost feels like I’m never going to really celebrate Hanukkah again,” Weissburg said. “So it’s been very weird, I think because Hanukkah was just a lesser holiday, and it was never that important to my family.”

    Bodansky explained that, because of Hanukkah’s variable date, it sits in an odd position as a bigger winter holiday.

    “All you ever hear about Hanukkah is ‘Ugh, Hanukkah’s so early this year’ or ‘Ugh, Hanukkah’s so late this year,’” Bodansky said. “There’s never ‘Hanukkah is exactly in the right time this year.’”

    Weissburg, however, sees this as an inherent part of how Jewish holidays are celebrated in America.

    “That is the thing about Hanukkah, you celebrate it when you can,” Weissburg said. “You really find those divots in your life where you can celebrate Jewish holidays because the systems we’re within are never going to be built around them.”