Elon community enjoys annual Festival of Lights and Luminaries

Over 2,400 luminaries and 50,000 lights illuminated the Historic Neighborhood, Under the Oaks and the Lambert Academic Village.


On what would otherwise be a cold and quiet Tuesday night, Elon’s campus was filled with people taking in the lights, treats and fellowship that came with the annual Festival of Lights and Luminaries tradition.

“Even with as difficult as times are right now and everybody being stressed about finals, it’s nice to see everybody hanging out and doing something as a collective group,” said Lindsey La Sasso ’23, a human services major.

Organized by the Truitt Center for Religious & Spiritual Life, the festival included interactive stations on eight religious, spiritual and ethical traditions: Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Earth Traditions & Nature Spirituality, Islam, Spirit & Pride, Traditions & Religious of the African Diaspora and Buddhism.

Along with the interactive stations, there was a variety of elements to enhance the festive atmosphere including brass and vocal music, Winter Wonderland vendors, campus club tables and food and treats for the students, faculty, staff and community members.

Sparklers complemented the tens of thousands of lights strung around Elon’s campus, as participants strolled along walkways lined with luminaries, drinking in the sights and sounds of the season while sipping on warm beverages.

“It’s nice that it seems to be something not just for the students, but for the local community as well,” said Josh Hollands, visiting Fulbright Scholar for the 2021-22 academic year.

The Festival of Lights and Luminaries event has made a concerted effort to become more global and holistic, outside of the usual faith traditions.

Jess Cudney and Michelle Rozek are the co-founders of Way of Belonging, a community devoted to cultural transformation, liberation and healing, and they both shared information on the Earth traditions and natural spirituality.

“In the midst of the uncertainty of the future and humanity’s collective relationship with Earth, I think there’s a longing for a deeper meaning and connection,” Cudney said. “Earth serves as a backdrop to our lives and I think there’s something to actually seeing the breath of life and being enchanted by the spirit of life that surrounds us.

“I want people to feel inspired and to feel connected to Earth in a deeper way,” Rozek added.

John Robinson-Miller IV, assistant director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity & Diversity Education (CREDE), shared information on Traditions & Religious of the African Diaspora, with the centerpiece being Kwanzaa.

Robinson-Miller said the inclusion of celebrations originating from people of the African Diaspora is a prime example of how the Festival of Lights event has grown during the three decades it has been held at Elon.

“I love that we are becoming more inclusive of the other types of practices,” he said. “This is a particular way that we can focus on Black folks, but it’s also a practice that we can integrate in our daily lives.”

A self-described devout Brahmin, Tara Venkataraman ’25 was one of the student guides for the Hinduism interactive table. With Diwali being a festival of lights and her favorite holiday, the luminaries event appealed greatly to her.

Venkataraman said there aren’t many Indians on Elon’s campus, so it’s been rewarding for her to share a piece of her culture with the greater Elon community.

“It’s important to spread awareness and understand. And it’s really interesting to learn about and I love seeing other people at Elon interested in this,” she said.