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Hanukkah in Oxford: Celebrating during finals week

Finals week means two different things: the end of the semester is near, and the holidays are approaching. The first of these major holidays is Hanukkah, or Chanukah, which begins on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

For Jewish students like freshman Maddie Dohl, this means being away from home and studying for much of the first four days of the eight-day holiday.

Hanukkah follows the Hebrew calendar, so it falls on different days each year. Last year, Hanukkah began after students were home for winter break, but this year it begins on the second day of finals week.

"I usually go to my cousin's house, and they have a big hanukkiah, or menorah, outside their house. So we stand outside their house and light it," Dohl said. "We usually stay out really late, but this year I will have to be in early because I have to get up at 8 for a final in the morning."

For students wishing to celebrate Hanukkah in Oxford, there are a few events planned. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, Hillel is hosting a pre-Hanukkah celebration. They will be providing food, information about the holiday and activities such as ugly sweater decorating and candle-making.

"Both Jewish and non-Jewish students are invited to participate," said executive director of Hillel, Mary Miller. "We are having a special activity this year with candle-making to talk about light and how it is experienced in various religions."

Chabad's celebration is Tuesday, Dec. 12, the first day of Hanukkah, from 7:30 to 8 at the Seal. For the first time in Oxford, they will be lighting a giant menorah made from carved ice. President Crawford will be speaking at the event, and traditional Hanukkah foods, such as donuts and latkes, will be served.

"We have menorah lightings in front of the White House, we have menorah lightings on Fifth Avenue, in front of the Kremlin, we have one at the Eiffel Tower," Rabbi Yossi Greenberg said. "We are sort of the Oxford link to this great, great holiday.

Another challenge facing students who wish to celebrate Hanukkah on campus is the inability to light candles in dorms. It is university policy that students living in residence halls are not allowed to be in possession of candles or to have open flames anywhere in the dorms.

"We know that it is a problem to light menorahs in the dorms. We understand it is for safety purposes, but students always have a problem," Greenberg said. "They should contact their RAs and RDs and a lot of dorms will make a specific area that they can watch over for a certain amount of time where students can come and light their menorahs."

In addition, some students will be using electronic menorahs during the holiday.

"My roommate and I actually ordered an electronic one on Amazon for our room, so that's very exciting," said Dohl. "And I will be home for the end of [Hanukkah], so I still get to do it with my family."

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