Hanukkah – celebrating on campus


Christmas is everywhere on campus right now. However, another festival that our University community also celebrates started yesterday (Thursday December 7). 

Hanukkah, or Chanukah, the Jewish festival of light, lasts for eight days – starting at nightfall on December 7 and ending on Friday 15 December.  

Dubbed one of her ‘favourite festivals of the year’, Evie, from our student Jewish Society, explains that the festival dates change slightly every year as the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar calendar.  

“I enjoy the build-up to the festive holiday break even though I don’t celebrate Christmas. Everyone is normally happier and nicer at this time of year,” says Evie. “Seeing the lights go up around campus and all the events just makes it prettier. It is nice to get into the festive spirit with the University community.” 

How is Hanukkah celebrated? 

Evie explains Hanukkah traditions vary between families – there are some activities that everyone will do, but some which are specific to each family. 

Families may give small gifts – such as chocolate coins – to each other for each night of Hanukkah. 

Lots of food cooked in oil is served during Hanukkah, such as doughnuts and latkes (potato pancakes similar to hash browns). Some families will choose to eat lots of dairy-based products too, but this will vary among communities. 

Evie is choosing to head home to celebrate Hanukkah with her family, for “good vibes, fun and food”. However, for our staff and students on campus, there are a few activities taking place until the end of Hanukkah, which you can find out more about through the Chaplaincy and your departments. 

The lighting of the Hanukkiah 

Following the miracle of light, the main way that Hanukkah is celebrated is by lighting a Hanukkiah –a nine-branch candelabra. 

Eight of the nine branches hold candles symbolising the eight nights of the holiday; on each night, an extra one is lit, until on the final night all eight branches are ignited. The ninth branch holds a candle, known as the shamash and referred to as the ‘servant’, which is used to light the other eight. 

Traditionally these eight candles are the same height and the ninth, the shamash, is taller. 

The Hanukkiahs will be visible in people’s homes and Evie says it is traditional to leave them in the window so that light is spread throughout the whole community.  

For those celebrating on campus there will be a Hanukkiah in the chaplaincy for the duration of the festival. 


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