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Even though this is my third year at Brown, this is the first time I have been on campus for Hanukkah; the holiday fell during winter break for both my freshman and sophomore years. This year, Hanukkah fell very early on the calendar, from November 28 to December 6. I was lucky to still be home for Thanksgiving break on the 28th, so I enjoyed a night of lighting the menorah and exchanging gifts with my family. I had planned with my friends at Brown to light the candles together each night when we returned from break. I was looking forward to celebrating each night with friends but honestly didn’t think much of it. Much to my surprise, gathering with my friends for Hanukkah each night this week has been a highlight of the semester. 

We haven’t done anything extraordinary. Our nightly routine consists of meeting in one of our suites, hanging out for a little while, and then lighting the menorah and singing the Hanukkah blessings. This sounds just like any other time hanging out with friends with the addition of candle lighting, but something about it feels really special. For me, it feels really nice to have close friends with shared traditions and culture. Five of us have gathered each night, and we have all appreciated the time spent together celebrating the holiday.

There have also been larger candle lightings each night at Hillel, which is a great way to gather with the greater community for Hanukkah. Though we haven’t attended, my friends and I picked up some of the free menorahs and candles provided by Hillel, so that we each have a menorah in our suites to light. On the third night, before meeting my friends in one of their suites, I facetimed my family at home and lit the menorah in my suite while they lit ours at home. This was my favorite night so far since I got to celebrate (virtually) with my family and also enjoy time celebrating with friends.

One other great thing about our candle lighting each night is that our roommates have all participated. Two of my roommates who aren’t Jewish can now check both lighting a menorah and eating latkes off of their bucket list! I’ve really enjoyed sharing Hanukkah each night with my Jewish friends, but getting to include our roommates who aren’t Jewish has definitely been an added bonus. Our roommates have all loved the new experience, and we’ve had fun teaching them about the holiday.

There’s a common understanding among most Jews that Hanukkah is a pretty lame holiday. It’s not a major holiday for us, and it definitely doesn’t compare to its holiday season competitor of Christmas. Hanukkah has never been very meaningful to me since it is a minor holiday, but this year it has definitely taken on some added significance. I really value the time I have shared lighting the candles and reciting the Hanukkah blessings with my friends. It has made this Hanukkah my most memorable yet.

Hannah is a sophomore at Brown from the D.C. area in Virginia. She is concentrating in public policy.
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