138,000 Christmas lights sparkling. 6,000 people watching. 80 gallons of hot chocolate steaming. 60 gallons of cider warming. 40 dozen treats. And a 30-foot tall tree for all to see.
There may not be a partridge in that tree, but on Monday, Dec. 1 at 7:00 p.m., that tree will light up the Dallas Hall lawn in a spectacular display.
Celebration of Lights is one of SMU’s oldest and beloved traditions. This year marks the event’s 41st annual celebration.
David Lee, president of Student Foundation, said that the Celebration of Lights is more than just an event, it’s an opportunity for the community to gather together and remember what’s important during the holiday season.
“It really brings the whole campus together,” Lee said.
Celebration of Lights kicks off the winter holiday season by lighting the university Christmas tree and the main quad’s surrounding trees. The community enjoys live performances, sing-alongs to Christmas carols and listens to SMU President R. Gerald Turner read “The Christmas Story.”
“Regardless of what grade you are in or what organization you are a part of, Celebration of Lights is a time for everyone to celebrate the joy of the holiday season together,” said Mallory Massa, entertainment coordinator for Student Foundation.
Celebration of Lights first began in 1973 when Mike Miller, one of the first members of the newly founded Student Foundation, came up with the idea. Only 5,000 lights were initially used, but over the years Student Foundation has built up enough funding through the school so that this year, more than 138,000 lights will light up the night.
“It’s so exciting seeing the lights go on all at once,” said Kelsey McLaughlin, campus events vice-chair. “The entire Dallas Hall quad gets lit up, and it’s just so beautiful.”
Each year during the celebration, Student Foundation honors a charity. This year, the group will sponsor Dallas CASA, an organization that helps children affected by domestic violence. Through CASA’s angel tree program, 82 sponsored children will receive holiday gifts, toys and clothes from different organizations and residential commons on campus.
But that’s not all Celebration of Lights has in store. More than 80 gallons of hot chocolate, 60 gallons of hot apple cider and 40 dozen goodies from Tiff’s Treats will be served at the event. Ten performances are scheduled for the evening, including three musical groups, three duets and three soloists. The songs, however, are not released until the day of the event.
“The songs we choose really embody the holiday spirit,” said Jack Murphy, campus events chair. “They’re centered around anything classical to anything a little more upbeat.”
As tradition goes, the lights will come on during a performance of “Silent Night” and will stay on through finals and Christmas break.
Spencer Meyer, a senior finance major, said that the Celebration of Lights is an event that the entire student body looks forward to all year. It is a special time during the holidays where students can gather together, momentarily forget about the stress of finals, and revel in the joy and spirit of the holiday season.
“You’re standing out there with a hot chocolate in one hand and a candle in the other, surrounded by all of your friends. And then all of the sudden the boulevard lights up with thousands and thousands of Christmas lights, and it’s just awe-inspiring,” said Meyer.