Hundreds gathered on Giving Tuesday for the annual Elon tradition to celebrate the start of the holiday season.
With luminarias serving as beacons throughout Elon’s iconic campus and community members enjoying the fellowship of one another on Tuesday night, the scene was set for what is often hailed as Elon’s most beloved tradition — the Festival of Lights and Luminaries.
This year’s event saw 10 interactive tables sharing the meaning of light within various religious, spiritual and ethical traditions represented on Elon’s spiritually diverse campus. Along with the 10 tables, the festival included clubs from the Department of World Languages and Cultures, three musical performance stages, and hot chocolate and hot cider refreshment stations. The event also offered an opportunity for the university to honor generous donors within the Elon community by placing their names on the luminarias that lit up campus.
The focus of the event, organized by The Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Light, is to create spaces where the campus and overall community can learn and celebrate each other respective differences.
“Creating spaces for all to feel welcomed and engaged on a more focused theme is the goal for the event. We hope that those who attend will leave more informed and spiritually enriched,” Boswell said.
Although the festival is such an aesthetic and intuitive event, spiritual education has been an ingrained part of the event since its inception nearly 30 years ago.
“Being able to teach more people about different cultures and all the interesting celebrations around the world, celebrating light and good over evil … is a time where I’m making important memories that I know I’m going to look back on after I graduate,” said Sonali Schroder ’23.
Jannifer Register, an administrative assistant for the Truitt Center, has been involved in the Festival of Lights and Luminaries event for nearly half of its existence. She said implementing educational programs has made the tradition much more holistic.
“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,” Register said.
For Katie Weber ’23, this year’s Festival of Lights was bittersweet, knowing it was her last as a student. During each of her years at Elon, the festival has been a much-anticipated event, a time for her to decompress before the whirlwind created by the end of the semester.
She said she’ll miss the togetherness the event creates but is glad that she got to experience it over the years.
“Everyone gets together, and it’s almost a game to try to find your luminary in the sea of all the others. It’s a nice break from finals and studying and it’s always fun seeing people come together,” Weber said.
Zach Weitzen ’26 had followed the Festival of Lights and Luminaries event on Elon’s social media channels for several years before becoming a student this fall. Experiencing the event in person, however, only drove home the significance of the event and all that it stands for.
Although Weitzen has only been on Elon’s campus for half an academic year, he recognizes how special the tradition is and is already looking forward to next’s year’s event.
“It shows a lot about the community that Elon is. Part of the reason I came to Elon was for the community, so to see it and be a part of it was nice,” Weitzen said. “The festival is a great combination of culture and it emphasizes Elon’s commitment to community building.”