Celebration of Lights continues to bring students together via a live broadcast

Throughout the event, Westminster Choir College held several holiday themed performances. Courtesy of Westminster Choir College

by Christian McCarville

Rider is home to many students, each with their own unique background and family. Given the different types of celebrations and traditions occurring each holiday season, the student body at Rider celebrates this season in a variety of ways. The Celebration of Lights is a university tradition that highlights the different customs and holidays that students take part in.

Occurring at the tail end of each fall semester, the Celebration of Lights is typically held in front of the Moore Library. Since this semester is anything but typical, the event was adapted to a virtual premiere that was broadcast on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. on Facebook Live.

The Student Government Association (SGA), Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and Student Involvement collaboratively put together this year’s event. Executive Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Pamela Pruitt spoke on the importance of the event.

“I believe that it is important to celebrate and acknowledge the wide range of holiday customs that students may practice because they provide a sense of belonging and the sharing of traditions, which bring all of us together in unity during the holiday season,” said Pruitt.

The premiere began with a warm introduction from university President Gregory Dell’Omo and his wife Polly Dell’Omo. 

“Celebration of Lights is a university-wide collaborative which illustrates the blending of so many cultures within the Rider community during this festive time of year,” said Polly Dell’Omo.

Following these opening remarks, senior popular music studies major Dean Klebonas appeared on screen to introduce himself as this year’s host. 

Senior popular music studies major Dean Klebonas hosted this year’s Celebration of Lights from his home in New York.

“I quickly learned that the community at Rider is unmatchable, that creates a sense of home like no other,” said Klebonas. “It’s events like these that make Rider amazing.”

Klebonas set the scene for a string of prerecorded musical performances and student interviews, all incorporated into the live event. The video clips showcased the different ways students celebrate the holiday season along with the remarkable talents embedded within the Rider community. 

Student representatives of various on-campus organizations provided a message about the holidays and how they celebrate. Members of Hillel, a Jewish student organization, spoke about each of their family’s Hanukkah traditions. 

The inclusion of these various organizations was an excellent testament to the diversity and unity within the student body. Other organizations, such as the Muslim Student Organization and the Catholic Campus Ministry made meaningful contributions.

The Unashamed Gospel Choir were one of the many on-campus organizations to participate in this year’s Celebration of Lights.
Courtesy of Unashamed Gospel Choir.

Westminster Choir College was also featured on several occasions throughout the event, providing audiences with socially distant, holiday-themed performances.

Also seen interspersed within the Facebook Live event were the students comprising this year’s Cranberry Court. Each student was given a brief moment to speak about the event and how they celebrate the holiday season. At the very end of the Celebration of Lights, the final winners of the Cranberry Court were revealed: senior political science major Rhea Fryer and senior secondary education major Sami Wheeler.

The virtual adaptation of the Celebration of Lights tradition served its job of getting the Rider community in the holiday spirit, despite this year’s unfortunate circumstances caused by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. 

“The remote format of this year’s Celebration of Lights gave us an opportunity to experience holiday traditions of the Rider family more up close and personal in their homes and with their greetings of the season,” said Pruitt.

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