Dec 12, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Christmas may often get the brightest buzz when it comes to the December holidays, but there are plenty of ways to share in Hanukkah joy, too. Here’s a closer look at the festival of light, along with tips for celebrating on your college campus.

About Hanukkah

Contrary to popular misconception, Hanukkah is not the “Jewish Christmas,” nor is it the holiest of all Jewish holidays. However, it is cause for jubilant celebration.

Also spelled “Chanukah,” this joyous, eight-day, wintertime commemoration -- which this year begins tonight and continues through Wednesday, the 20th --  heralds “the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt,” according to The word Hanukkah translates to “dedication” in Hebrew, and the festivities typically include the lighting of the menorah, games, gifts, and favorite foods.

Four Ways to Celebrate Hanukkah on Campus

From performances of The Nutcracker to dorm caroling, the spirit of Christmas is alive and well on most college campuses. So is the spirit of Hanukkah -- if you know where to look that is. Read on for four ways to celebrate the holiday while at school.

1. Look to Jewish Organizations

The best place to start? Your school’s Hillel chapter or your local Chabad, AKA your “home away from home” while at university. Menorah lightings, Hanukkah dinners, Hanukkah parties, toy drives, “pizza and parsha,” and, of course, Shabbat services are just a few of the activities you’ll find waiting for you.

2. Share Your Joy

Many gentiles have limited knowledge of Hanukkah. In fact, if you’re like many Jewish students, you may find yourself answering questions about everything from Santa Claus to eight days of gifts. Sure, this can be annoying at times, but it can also be an opportunity to share your culture. Says Arizona Jewish Life writer of her experiences as a Jew on campus, “For 18 years, I was asked these and similar questions every year around the holidays. Now that I’m in college, the questions have become more profound – more educationally inspired….I like these questions. On campus, I’ve noticed that people are much more open to learning about my culture, instead of just pointing out the things I was ‘missing out on.’ In high school, I felt ostracized by fellow classmates and left out of the festivities. In college, I feel unique. I feel special knowing that I celebrate a holiday with a rich history and a shared heritage with my fellow Jews.”

Not to mention that the common Hanukkah prayer, “May the lights of Hanukkah usher in a better world for all humankind,” is a sentiment that can be shared by all -- regardless of their faith.

3. Watch Hanukkah Flicks

Okay, so the list of Hanukkah movies may be much shorter than the list of Christmas movies, but they are out there. You don’t even have to search for them; just use Bustle’s handy “8 Hanukkah Movies & TV Specials That Are Worth Watching Every Year” instead.

On a related note, listening to Hanukkah music can also help you get in the Maccabean mood. A few of our favorites? “Oh, Chanukah!,” “I Have a Little Dreidel,” and “Ma’oz Tzur.

 4. Host a Hanukkah Party

Can’t find a Hanukkah party on your campus? Stock up on dreidels, chocolate coins, and other supplies and throw a bash of your own.

Or, go with a theme: We’ve all heard of Secret Santa. Why not put a twist on this gift-giving game and host a Hanukkah Harry -- after the popular Saturday Night Live character played by the inimitable Jon Lovitz -- instead?

Not up for throwing a party for many? Invite your closest friends over to help you light the menorah and share in some of your favorite Hanukkah traditions and foods. If you’re feeling inspired to cook, meanwhile, be sure to check out Taste of Home’s roundup of Hanukkah dinner recipes.

The winter holidays are the perfect occasion for bringing people together -- and Hanukkah is a beautiful reason to gather and celebrate. These four tips can help you embrace Hanukkah within your own heart and home, as well as share the hope and joy of Hanukkah with others.



Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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