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Religious Festivals at Colgate – Enthusiasm and Curiosity at Play

By Jake Pulver '16 on March 25, 2016

Religious festivals are a uniquely entertaining way to commemorate your faith, all while having the most fun of times. As a very involved Jew, I attend weekly Shabbat services frequently, and have celebrated the most important Jewish holidays in the Michael Saperstein Center. But there’s just something different about festivals.

As a member and former President of the Colgate Jewish Union board, I can attest firsthand to how much work goes into preparing religious services and meals. I have spent most of my Friday afternoons at Colgate cooking up Shabbat dinner for our guests, and have sat in many board meetings over the years, planning logistics for anything and everything that the Colgate Jewish Union does. Earlier this week, we celebrated Purim, a holiday unlike the others. While we do read an ancient text (the Megillah), we also commemorate the holiday by eating special cookies called Hamantashen, wearing costumes, using noisemakers, and generally being merry. While on most occasions, our board members are busy doing everything necessary to ensure our events run smoothly, this was a time where we delighted in the commandment to sit back, enjoy, and revel in the holiday with each other.

While the costume-ladden Jews in attendance brought a bundle of enthusiasm with them, we also welcomed students of all faiths to observe and participate in the festival. And come they did. At Colgate, students are exposed to all different ways of thinking and living. For the religiously curious, our celebration of Purim served as an opportunity to experience a phenomenon that they may not otherwise be able to see. And surprisingly, the non-Jews in the building made up a large portion of the students celebrating with us. Whether they were religion majors, or friends of Jews, the attendance shows the genuine intrigue with all of the modes of life that the world has to offer, a feeling that’s mutual among Colgate students.

Colgate Holi

One festival that students might be more familiar with is Holi, the Hindu festival of colors and sharing love. While some students might be satisfied seeing pictures of the ceremony in countries around the world, Colgate students do what they can to emulate the festival. Come our celebration for Holi (slightly behind the actual festival), students of all faiths will go to Whitnall Field and splash each other with striking shades of color. Pictures don’t do the event (and the mass of paint-splattered students) justice. And while most students are curious to see what getting paint thrown on them is like, there’s more than that. Prior to the colorful display, students are treated to an Indian meal, and get to hear from Hindu peers on Holi’s significance.

Just like with performances, sporting events, and academic presentations, Colgate students take religious festivals as opportunities to share the funner sides of religion with the greater community. We take pride in observing all of the holidays and going to all of the services that we do, but when it comes to festivals, we celebrate and give others a chance to see what it’s like.

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