The Festival of Lights and Luminaries once again brought together the Elon University campus and surrounding community in celebration of different cultures, religions and traditions. The annual campus tradition highlights the diverse cultures and spiritualities both around the world and at Elon.

While walking around the festival, students like freshman Annabelle Miller said they were able to resonate with the many booths set up around the Historic Neighborhood. Miller said as a Jewish student, it was important to see her culture represented within the festival. 

“I have a group of friends who just happened to be Jewish, and we all got super excited about finding latkes,” Miller said. “It was really nice to be able to get a taste of traditions that I have at home.” 

Miller’s experience at the festival was not limited to identities she is familiar with, as she said she was able to learn and experience other traditions first hand. 

“I had gotten my Hebrew name written in Arabic, and that was really interesting. I love learning about different languages and other cultures,” Miller said. “It’s great seeing the community like this. I think this is definitely going to be one of my favorite festivals.”

This love for the campus tradition is shared between the many students attending. One of these students is junior Jasmine Smith, who appreciated the sense of community.

“I just love seeing Elon students, community, professors bringing their kids and, of course, the dogs come out to the festival,” Smith said. “Seeing a big sense of community before we go home and have a stressful week is really really nice.” 

2022 is not the first year Smith attended the lights and luminaries festival. 

“Last year at the Kwanzaa booth, we made a little ornaments and talked about what everything inside of the ornaments means,” Smith said. “I saw my little ornament today. I just love luminaries, it is adorable.”

But before the campus community could unite to view the festival, clubs and organizations collaborated behind the scenes to set up booths, which were manned by students and staff eager to educate the community. Many language clubs set up stations around the Lambert Academic Village — including the Chinese Club, where junior Jasper Myers taught visitors about Chinese culture and shared her gratitude for mentors such as Chinese professor Binnan Gao.

“I was a freshman in Mandarin with Gao Laoshi and she has been such a great mentor and role model for me during my time at Elon,” Myers said. “I tried to give back to that community by serving as vice president of the Chinese club. Being able to be a part of expanding the club and educating the community about Chinese studies here at Elon has been incredibly gratifying.”

The hour and a half festival brought crowds to view the diverse cultures celebrated on campus. As a wide intersection of people gathered at Elon, individuals were able to share and learn experiences. 

“Allowing folks to all come together and celebrate their own version of what a winter holiday means to them, I think, is beautiful,” Myers said. “Elon lets those folks specifically share their culture. They don't try to speak for them. The mission behind it is quite beautiful.”