How College Campuses Across the US Are Celebrating the Holidays


The holiday season is a time of joy, community, and tradition, and college campuses across the United States embrace this festive spirit with unique celebrations that bring students together. Whether it's a centuries-old ritual or a recent addition, these holiday traditions contribute to the rich tapestry of campus life. Let's explore 12 heartwarming holiday traditions from colleges across the nation.

How College Campuses Across the US Are Celebrating the Holidays
(Photo : Pexels / Nicole Michalou )

1. A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols - Emory University

For nearly a century, Emory University in Georgia has ushered in the Christmas season with a choral concert steeped in tradition. "A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" tells the story of Christ's birth through a captivating blend of music and scripture. This ticketed event, performed by students and community members, stands as the longest-running tradition on campus, weaving a magical atmosphere of faith and festivity.

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2. Shabbatukkah - High Point University

High Point University in North Carolina embraces diversity with an annual Hanukkah Shabbat known as "Shabbatukkah." This celebration, occurring the Friday before finals, brings students together for the lighting of Hanukkah candles and communal feasting. The emphasis on community and the festive Hanukkah sweaters contribute to a warm and inclusive atmosphere on campus.

3. Christmas Rose - Holy Family University

Since its founding in 1954, Holy Family University in Pennsylvania has celebrated the "Christmas Rose." This tradition involves a Nativity blessing at Holy Family Hall, followed by caroling around campus. Inspired by a touching legend about an upset girl presenting tears turned into roses to baby Jesus, the event incorporates interfaith prayer and festive photos featuring the school mascot, Blue, dressed as Santa.

4. Out of Darkness: A Celebration of Light - McDaniel College

Established in 2023, McDaniel College's "Out of Darkness" celebration embodies the college's Latin motto, "E tenebris in lucem voco" or "I call you out of darkness into light." This festive gathering features over 25,000 lights, 700 luminaries, and student choir performances. Students come together under the glowing lights to share cultural traditions, complemented by the presence of the college mascot, the Green Terror, dressed as Santa for a photo-op.

5. Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration - Morgan State University

Morgan State University in Maryland kicks off the holiday season with a vibrant pre-Kwanzaa celebration. Focused on the principles of unity, self-determination, and collective responsibility, this event brings together students and Baltimore community members for music, food, and a fashion show. While Kwanzaa officially occurs in the last week of December, Morgan State starts the festivities in early December.

6. Menorah Lighting - Monmouth University

For over 20 years, Monmouth University in New Jersey has illuminated the campus with the annual Menorah Lighting. Sponsored by student organizations like Chabad, the event is followed by a festive holiday party featuring a dreidel competition, latkes, and donuts. The Menorah Lighting brings together the campus community to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

7. Advent Mass Tree Lighting - University of Scranton

At the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, the holiday season commences with an Advent Mass, emphasizing the Catholic faith's preparation and prayer. Following the mass, a procession leads to the Dionne Green on campus, where a permanent evergreen tree is blessed and lit, symbolizing the start of the festive season.

8. Holiday Cards - University of Nevada, Las Vegas

UNLV faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, contribute to the season of giving through the Holiday Card tradition, dating back to 1967. Faculty and staff submit holiday cards and contributions to the Holiday Card Scholarship campaign, raising funds for students. The submitted card design is then used to decorate the campus Christmas tree in the student union, creating a visually stunning display.

9. Lighting the Way - University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi community has celebrated the holiday season for over 25 years with a monumental Christmas tree lighting. Gathering on the Hattiesburg campus, students, faculty, and community members witness the lighting of a towering tree adorned with a custom tree topper. Festive treats, holiday music, and pictures with Santa Claus follow the lighting ceremony.

10. Kwanzaa Celebration - Utica University

Utica University in New York has been celebrating Kwanzaa since 1989. Hosted by the Black Student Union, the event features African drumming, the lighting of the seven Kwanzaa candles, poetry, songs, and a captivating performance by African dancers. The festive party in early December is a vibrant and culturally rich tradition on campus.

11. President's Ornament Signing - Washington & Jefferson College

Since 2017, Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania has brought students together to sign round ornaments. These six-inch orbs, designated by class colors, adorn a large fir tree outside the college president's house, marking the beginning of the holiday season. The annual ornament signing, along with a menorah lighting and a holiday float build, creates a sense of unity and anticipation for the holiday season.

12. Yule Log Celebration - William & Mary

One of America's oldest colleges, William & Mary in Virginia, marks the holiday season with a warm and enchanting tradition. Students gather around cressets in the Wren Courtyard for live music and story readings. The celebration continues in the Great Hall, where participants toss sprigs of holly into a yule log fire, symbolizing leaving behind worries and inviting good luck for the upcoming year. This tradition has endured for centuries, connecting current students with the college's rich history.

These holiday traditions showcase the diversity, creativity, and community spirit found on college campuses across the United States. Regardless of religious or cultural backgrounds, students come together to celebrate the magic of the season, forging bonds and creating lasting memories that extend far beyond the classroom.

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