On the evening of Friday, December 8, Concord Academy held its first-ever Joyful Celebration of Hanukkah. The event was organized by Jewish CA parents, and was exactly what the name describes: a joyful celebration of the Jewish festival of lights. However, it was not just a simple ceremony to honor the holiday. The celebration lasted for over an hour, involving a full dinner and a cappella performance along with the traditional prayers and candle lighting.

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah, along with many other ways), is an annual Jewish holiday that occurs in December or late November. It lasts for eight days and celebrates an old legend about a rebellion, the rededication of a temple, and a sacred lamp that miraculously burned for eight days on a single day of oil. Hanukkah is not a very important holiday from a strictly religious perspective, but because it is a happy holiday that occurs in the winter, it has gained prominence as a way for Jewish people to enjoy the Christmas season.

The biggest event of the celebratory evening was the lighting of candles. This is also the central tradition of Hanukkah and honors the oil lamp that burned for eight days in the original legend. Each evening, candles are placed into a hanukkiah, a special candelabra with nine spots (though it is often just called a menorah, the Hebrew word for any lamp). One candle is added each evening until there are eight lit candles on the final night. December 8 was the second night of Hanukkah, so the CA hanukiahs each had two lit candles.

In Jewish tradition, Hanukkah candles are not lit to light the home from within, but to illuminate the outside. The light is meant to shine and remind anyone who sees it of the miracle of Hanukkah. That miracle was not only how the oil burned for eight days, but also, more broadly, that the Jewish people were able to thrive.

In today’s political climate, the news on the war in Israel and Palestine over the past three months has pressured CA, like other institutions, to hold a clear stance. As a result, the joyful celebration had an undercurrent of politics. However, that did not get in the way of a fun and festive celebration. After the success of the first Joyful Celebration of Hanukkah, it seems likely that this will become an annual event.