Deckin’ the Dallas Halls
Published: Sunday, December 2, 2012
Updated: Sunday, December 2, 2012 22:12
SMU officially kicked off the holiday season last night with the 35th annual Celebration of Lights ceremony on Dallas Hall lawn.
The Celebration of Lights ceremony was founded in 1977 by the founding SMU Student Foundation President Mike Miller.
“Miller had a vision to illuminate the Dallas Hall quad. He raised enough money to purchase 5,000 Christmas lights and a new tradition was born,” Student Foundation Campus Events officer Eric Sabandal said.
The ceremony included several performers singing holiday classics such as “Joy to the World,” “Herald the Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.” All of the performers are SMU students, including the Belle Tones and Southern Gentlemen, SMU’s female and male a capella groups.
For many students and alumni, the Celebration of Lights is an important tradition and one of the campus’ best events.
“It’s really a nice way to kick off the holiday season and it’s an event I can bring my family to,” Susan Howe, associate university counsel in legal affairs, said.
Freshman Myles Lee from Louisiana was excited to see what the Celebration of Lights was all about.
“I heard about it on the tour when I was a senior. They tell you all about how special it is so I thought I’d check it out,” Lee said.
The ceremony began with the St. Paul the Apostle Church Children’s choir singing to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Cannon.”
As the children’s choir sang, the crowd began to fill up Dallas Hall’s lawn almost to the flagpole.
Sophomore Mindy McClean was with her friends to see the ceremony for the second year in a row.
She said the rain and temperatures last year dampened their experience, but they were excited to see how the ceremony would be in warmer weather.
Despite the warm temperatures, hot chocolate was provided to everyone, as well as candles and programs. The programs included lyrics to several of the songs and the audience was encouraged to sing along.
In between performances, Student Foundation President John Angle spoke to the audience and Dr. Steven Rankin, University Chaplin, led the university in prayer.
The most anticipated speaker of the night was President R. Gerald Turner. As he does every year, he treated the audience to a reading of The Christmas Story.
“It starts the beginning of the holiday season for the campus. I love hearing President Turner read the Christmas story,” Evelyn Ashley, assistant dean of Student Life and Director of Student Conduct, said.
Thirty-five years after the original Celebration of Lights, the program has grown tremendously. Not only have the number of lights decorating SMU grown, from 5,000 lights to 138,000 lights, but the size of the child sponsorship program has as well.
Student Foundation and the Cesar Chavez Learning Center have worked together for the past 35 years to sponsor 75 local children.
SMU students and organizations sponsor each child during the Celebration of Lights, and brings them a gift in addition to the songs and celebration.
Sabandal said, “We had over 125 people apply to the sponsor children. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of the SMU community.”
After months of planning, the time finally came for the lights to go on.
After junior Rebecca Roose sang the first verse of “Silent Night,” everyone blew out their candles and the main quad was illuminated, officially kicking off the long-awaited holiday season.