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Elon lights up the night to celebrate the start of the holiday season

Hundreds gathered outside Alamance Building on Thursday night for Elon University's annual Festival of Holiday Lights, with luminaries glowing in honor of alumni and student donors. 



Tree by tree lit up from Moseley Center to the Alamance Building in the heart of campus Thursday night as the Elon University family celebrated the season's start with the Festival of Holiday Lights. 

​Sponsored by the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, the Dec. 1 festival featured 1,500 luminarias illuminating the walkways stretching from Scott Plaza in front of Alamance Building to the Moseley Center and honoring contributions from scores of alumni and Class of 2017 donors. 

Hundreds gathered along the brick walkways in Scott Plaza to enjoy hot chocolate, cider and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus to mark the start of this season of holy days. The sounds of traditional holiday songs from the Elon University Brass Quintet added to the festive atmosphere. 

"On this night, we take a stand for hope and light," said the Rev. Jan Fuller, university chaplain. "We celebrate light and all it means and symbolizes. We celebrate the light in candles in the midst of loss, in the menorah of Hanukkah, by luminaries lit up by the names of beloved alumni, glittering bulbs on trees and bushes, and the lights we hold in our own hearts."

The crowd offered a moment of silence for one light not there Thursday night — Dr. J. Earl Danieley, the president emeritus and faithful Elon supporter who died Nov. 29 at the age of 92. 

​"The lights tonight remind us of the brightness of his life and his service to Elon for more than 70 years," Fuller said. "Let us remember in the lights tonight the love he had for us, and for this university and the light of his life among us."

At the urging of Rachel Hobbs '18, president of the junior class, the crowd turned to cameras streaming the event online through Facebook Live to wish them a happy holidays and Merry Christmas. More than 4,000 tuned to catch sight of the illuminated Elon campus through Facebook, offering up comments about the beauty of the surroundings and fond memories of the long-standing tradition of the Festival of Holiday Lights. 

For nearly 30 years, Elon has celebrated the start of the holiday season by lighting luminaries along the pathways in the center of its campus. This year, the Town of Elon joined in with its own luminary display through downtown to spread the celebration beyond the borders of campus. 

Brian Feeley, director of alumni engagement, explained before the event that the festival took on additional meaning a number of years ago when the university began placing the names of those alumni and members of the senior class who had donated to the university since the start of the year on the luminaries themselves. 

This year, luminaries carried the names of 2,990 donors, with 190 of those coming from members of the Class of 2017. "A few years back we thought what's a way we can tie in alumni who are all over the world and who care about Elon and are giving back to the institution, helping it move forward," Feeley said. 

Owen Covington,
12/1/2016 4:05 PM