TONIGHT: Celebrate the light with annual Festival of Lights and Luminaries event

The Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life’s Festival of Lights and Luminaries is on Nov. 29.

From spinning dreidels for Hanukkah to a festive light display for Kwanzaa, from wreaths for Advent to floating lanterns for Asian traditions, from traditional Muslim sweets to sparklers for Diwali, visitors to Elon’s annual Festival of Lights and Luminaries will be greeted by a celebration of the diversity of the campus community.

On the evening of Nov. 29, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Elon’s campus will be illuminated by the light of more than 2,500 luminaries, or lanterns lit by votive candles, which will line the pathways of the Historic Neighborhood, Under the Oaks and the Lambert Academic Village.

This year’s Festival of Lights and Luminaries, put on by the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and its campus partners, will feature tables sharing information about some of the diverse religious, spiritual and ethical traditions, worldviews, and identities represented on Elon’s campus.

The goal of this beloved tradition is to both celebrate and educate in a community setting.

Jillian Shor ‘24, the head intern for Spirit and Pride, a collaboration of the Truitt Center and the Gender and LGBTQIA Center, will be staffing her group’s station in the Meditation Garden.

“We want visitors to our table to see that we can all have our light shine anywhere we are. Whether at the festival or at home, we want to show that you can live as your authentic self anywhere and everywhere,” Shor said. “In addition to candy and treats, we are going to offer origami lantern kits that people can take home and make themselves, so they can each have a lantern at home.”

The Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life has organized the Festival of Lights and Luminaries for more than 30 years, but the program has changed over time to reflect Elon’s increasingly diverse community, and to intentionally offer educational opportunities as well as delight, fun and the joy of community. The year’s program will bring together the campus and local communities around the shared theme of “Celebrate the Light.”

Administrative Assistant Jannifer Register has worked on the festival for 12 years, and she thinks that this year will be the best one ever.

“It has always been a great event,” said Register, “but in recent years the festival has become such a wonderful, educational, fulfilling program with lots of rich information about the way that light is celebrated in different cultures and religions. So many different colleagues across campus, and so many students, are involved in so many different ways.”

That collaborative work epitomizes the Festival of Lights and Luminaries, according to University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement Reverend Kirstin Boswell. “The Festival of Lights and Luminaries is one of the Truitt Center’s signature events, but we could not do it without the collaborative efforts of colleagues across campus. We are so thankful for their support,” Boswell said.

“It’s such an exciting time of the year, and the Festival’s theme of ‘Celebrate the Light’ helps us to center a common theme within many of the world’s religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions,” she added.

In addition to the ten programming tables, the festival will feature clubs from the Department of World Languages and Cultures, three musical performance stages, sustainable gift wrap offered by the Office of Sustainability, and three refreshment stations with delicious hot chocolate and hot cider to welcome guests.

For Register, the most important and meaningful part of the Festival of Lights and Luminaries is the impact it has on the students, both those who help set up and those who are visitors.

“I love to walk up to the third floor of Alamance with our students, and see them look out over their handiwork, and take a picture of what they have done. It gives them a real sense of accomplishment to see everything they worked on for weeks come to fruition,” she said. “The students learn about teamwork, and how so many people from across campus work together to create something beautiful for everyone to enjoy.”