The beginning of Hanukkah is kicking off with festivities and fun for everyone, as Jewish students celebrate the famous miracle that occurred over 23 centuries ago.
Wednesday was the first official day of the 8-day holiday of Hanukkah this year. The festive week commemorates a story that travels back to second century B.C., when the Maccabees reclaimed the holy temple in the city of Jerusalem, Israel.
To commemorate the start of Hanukkah at CU, there was a lighting of the 9-foot menorah at the Visual Arts Complex Plaza at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The menorah will be on display on the Hellems Lawn throughout the week. The event was sponsored by the Jewish Student Association, Chabad and Hillel and was attended by Provost Russell Moore, who lit the first candle.
The Visual Arts Complex was packed with more than 50 reverent attendees, mostly students. Those who attended the lighting of the menorah last year, like Nate Riechers, a 21-year-old junior majoring in psychology, said they were in shock at the difference between the two years.
“It’s 20,000 times more organized this year,” Riechers said. “Last year my friend Noah had to light the menorah with a lighter he had in his pocket.”
Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm, the director of Chabad at CU, said he agreed, and having organized this event many years in a row, said that this year’s was the best yet.
“It was five times more successful than any other year,” Wilhelm said. “[Our] most amazing and successful event ever.”
Latkes (traditional potato pancakes), jelly donuts and warm apple cider were provided while traditional Jewish music played in the background.
Although the latkes ran out in minutes, Maria Klionsky, an 18-year-old freshman open-option major, said she didn’t mind because she came to look at more than just the treats.
“The events are so great and it’s a good place to scope out Jewish boys,” Klionsky said.
Other students said they enjoyed the event as well, such as Holly Lieberman, a 19-year-old sophomore open-option major.
“[It was] well put together, great donuts and a beautiful menorah!” Lieberman said.
Aside from gathering with Wilhelm for the first night of Hanukkah, many Jewish students will continue celebrating after the event is over.
Free menorah kits were available at the event, to encourage participants to light their own menorahs at home. Lighting candles is normally not allowed in the dorms, but special Hanukkah parties have been arranged by Chabad, where freshmen students will be allowed to light their menorahs in order to allow them to enjoy their first Hanukkah away from home.
Naomi Schware, a 19-year-old sophomore communication major, said she plans on participating in much-loved Hanukkah traditions with friends and family.
“My favorite part is . . . playing dreidel and getting to eat all the chocolate gelt that I win!” Schware said.
A favorite past-time of the holiday is the game dreidel, played with money and a spinning top with four sides called a dreidel. Most families play with chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil to look like money known as Hanukkah gelt, which in Yiddish translates to Hanukkah money.
The dreidel has a Hebrew letter on each side–nun, gimmel, hei and shin. The letters form an acronym in Hebrew, translating to “a great miracle happened there” in English. The game is a gambling game, where each player, starting with a pile of Hanukkah gelt, wins or loses based on what letter the driedel falls on after the player spins it.
Although she said she has no special plans for Hanukkah this year, Schware couldn’t contain her excitement when she mentioned one more Hanukkah favorite.
“Oh and the presents, all eight days of them,” Schware said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Rachel Hersch at Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org.