The Rider University community celebrated the season’s diverse holiday traditions during its annual Celebration of Lights on December 8 in BLC Cavalla Room.
“The purpose of Celebration of Lights is to create an atmosphere of celebration of different cultures and holidays,” said Emma Basilone ’10, a graduate assistant for Multicultural Affairs, who helped organize this year’s event. “There is nothing more special than visualizing unity and celebrating one of the greatest aspects of being an American — diversity.”
Brian Williams ’12, Student Government Association president, gave the opening remarks, which was followed by the lighting ceremony led by Rebecca Lotito ’12, president of On Fire!!
Members of the Unashamed Gospel Choir treated those in attendance to a medley of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen, Joy to the World, O Come, All Ye Faithful and Silent Night.
Then pianist Ezike Anene ’11 led everyone in a rendition of the Let There Be Peace on Earth, as guests circled from station to station to learn about the traditions of Kwanzaa, Japanese New Year, Boxing Day, Christmas, Chanukah, Three Kings Day, Diwali and Eid.
This year’s event introduced a new station of the Japanese New Year by the Japanese Pop Culture Society. Marisol Cruz ’13, public relations chair of the Japanese Pop Culture Society, explained that the Japanese New Year is the most important holiday in Japan. The three-day celebration is a time for food, family and good fortune. Cruz compared the traditions of Japanese New Year to those of Thanksgiving and Christmas. While the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is popular to watch on Thanksgiving, in Japan, families stay home to watch a big concert called Kohaku Uta Gassen on TV. Meanwhile, she described the customary mochi desserts to gingerbread. Families also go to the shrine to pray for prosperity and good health.
Standing by the Three Kings Day station, Jennifer Lopez ’13 said in the Dominican Republic, where she grew up, children receive presents from the Three Kings, similar to Santa Claus at Christmas. The holiday, held on January 6, celebrates the Epiphany, which marks the day that Catholics believe The Three Wise Men delivered gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold to Jesus. Lopez still sends gifts to her family, so they can keep the tradition going.
“I think it’s so beautiful to see all the diversity of the difference cultures,” said Lopez about Celebration of Lights.
The annual event was hosted by Rider’s Center for Multicultural Affairs. Performances also featured the Rider Vibes and Tashan Bollywood Dance Team. Participating student organizations included the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Community Service, Latin American Student Organization, Protestant Campus Ministry, Catholic Campus Ministry, Hillel, Black Student Union, Asian Students at Rider, Rider’s Organization for Caribbean Affiliated Students and Japanese Pop Culture Society. The rest of the student organizers included Brandon Enalls ’15, Sarah Perez-Klausner ’13 and Ashley Reeves ’15.
The Celebration of Lights began in 1991 when a small group of Rider people gathered at the main gate to light a tree and celebrate the many different holiday traditions that were part of the life experience of the Rider community during this festive time of year.
“Celebration of Lights is about being together with your friends and peers, and learning about another culture. By understanding others, ultimately, the preconceived notions of that culture are demolished quickly,” said Reeves, a freshman student worker in Multicultural Affairs. “That way, when you see the holiday on the calendar, you can no longer say ‘What’s that?,’ but instead, ‘Hey, that’s a pretty cool holiday!’ Celebration of Lights is about bringing everyone together.”