Just days after beloved Elon figure President Emeritus James Earl Danieley passed, students, faculty, and alumni gathered on Scott Plaza to celebrate one of Elon’s most valued traditions. The annual tradition of lighting luminaries and the holiday tree at the Festival of Holiday Lights, often referred to as "Luminaries" by students, was held 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 on Scott Plaza. 

Senior Alaina Schukraft said Luminaries is one of her favorite events at Elon.

“It’s fun to just see kind of the whole campus come together for the holiday season...they light the menorah and they do Santa Claus and they have the trees light up, so I thought it was great,” she said.

The Festival of Holiday Lights began in 1984 with a small Christmas tree blessing ceremony, but now includes live music, hot drinks, 840 strands of LED lights, and more than 15-hundred lighted luminaries. Mr. and Mrs. Claus also make appearances.

Linda Allison is an Elon alumna and current resident of Alamance County. Allison graduated from Elon a year before the tradition began, but that hasn’t stopped her from coming back to enjoy the celebration.

“I think they’re absolutely beautiful. I think it’s a great tradition and they should continue it," she said.

This year the event was shortened and it did not include the carolling and a cappella performances that were included in past years. Freshman Walker Barbee said she hoped the light show would have been a bit longer, but enjoyed the apple cider and the nice weather.

Many other freshmen were also able to experience the Festival of Holiday Lights for the first time. Juan Rivero, a freshman from Venezuela, said Luminaries was one of the reasons he decided to come to Elon.

“I thought it was a great event," Rivero said. "Back home we don’t have this type of event, like this type of tradition, so being here was nice.”

Luminaries is a celebration of light, but this year it was also a celebration of life. University Chaplain Jan Fuller held a moment of silence at the beginning of her speech to honor former Elon president Emeritus J. Earl Danieley, who died Tuesday morning. Fuller said in her speech that Elon was the light of his life. 

Schukraft said she was glad Elon was able to come together. 

“Elon is definitely so much more than just the student body, but to have faculty and staff and community members and everyone coming out to be a part of it was really special," Schukraft said. "I think that it makes it well-rounded and a great experience for everyone.”

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