Lighting candles, spinning dreidels, and eating the traditional latkes, Jews at Harvard and throughout the world have begun celebrating Hanukkah.
The eight-day holiday, which began Saturday at sunset, has illuminated the campus with parties, dances, performances--and candles. Each evening, the symbolic candles are kindled at Hillel and at many of the Houses in honor of the festival of lights.
"Hanukkah is one of the most observed holidays on campus," said Adams House resident Peter N. Miller '87, "because it doesn't involve many religious commandments that have to be performed. You're celebrating a victory, lighting candles, eating traditional foods, celebrating with your friends."
The celebration took a musical form on Saturday night, when a Sephardic concert kicked off the week's calender of events. On Sunday night, Israeli folk singer Chava Alberstein entertained a nearly-filled Sanders Theater audience, singing Hebrew and Yiddish melodies in a benefit for Soviet Jewry.
Dancing will mark the celebration on Thursday evening, at the Hillel-sponsored semi-formal Hanukkah benefit. The proceeds from the dance will be donated to help disabled Jewish youth in Boston.
Last night, however, it was through simple eating and conversation that students celebrated, at Hannukah parties in five Houses. A sixth party is scheduled for tomorrow evening at Currier House.
Not to miss out on the fun, about 90 freshmen gathered at the Union last night to listen as classmate Don F. Seeman '89 explained the significance of Hanukkah, and to watch as the traditional candles were lit by another classmate, Alan Z. Segal '89.
"We wanted to give those people who wouldn't ordinarily celebrate Hanukkah on their own an opportunity to celebrate it together," said organizer Daniel A. Raskas '89.
But for some, Hanukkah at college just isn't the same as Hanukkah at home. "No one makes latkes for me," said Beth Gamulka '89 of Wigglesworth. "The whole family is not there to sing, and I have to light the candles by myself."
Hanukkah commemorates the victory of Jewish patriots over oppressive Hellenistic forces and the rededication of their temple. Candles are traditionally burned to recall the miracle of a day's supply of holy oil burning for eight days. In addition, foods fried in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes), are caten. Children often celebrate by playing games involving the use of a special top, or dreidel.
Some Jews feel that Hanukkah is misunderstood because of its proximity to Christmas. "The basic problem is that Hanukkah is a minor holiday and Christmas is a major holiday, and it's not right to equate the two," said Mather House resident Linda S. Lourie '87. "The customs for Christmas are not the same as those for Hanukkah. It's unfortunate that the holidays coincide," she said.
But despite the potential confusion of tradition, many are still happy by the multitude of planned events. "I'm very impressed by the number of celebrations. I'm pleased to see there's some recognition of the Jewish community's interest on campus," said Rebecca S. Kolodny '86, the secretary of the Hillel Coordinating Council.