Photo by Matt Hembree (C’20).
By Szonja Szurop
Community members, students, and faculty gathered in Convocation Hall to kick off the holiday season with the annual Christmas tree lighting on November 30. Although the announced iceless skating was cancelled due to unfavorable weather conditions, the special treats, hot chocolate, carols, and the breathtaking lighting of the campus’s tree definitely brought the spirits of Christmastime to the community.
Hundreds of colorful umbrellas approached the Quad in spite of the chilly weather and pouring rain. Convocation Hall started to liven up with the pleasant chit-chat of the guests who were walking around munching on gingerbread and other sweets. In a few minutes, the room was full with the excited, rosy-cheeked crowd and Geoffrey Ward, the University Organist and Choirmaster, officially opened the event.
After a brief speech about holiday spirit, he announced the Cambiata a capella group, which came to surprise the community with such evergreen Christmas carols as “Silent Night” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The audience drummed with their legs and soon joined the singers too.
Miranda Nelson (C’22) shared her thoughts about performing at the lighting: “Usually for the performances I’m pretty nervous, but once I saw everyone getting involved, I felt more comfortable. I think the sing-alongs really set a pleasant tone for the Christmas season!”
By the time attendees were in a cheery mood from the music and the cookies, it turned dark enough outside for the tree lighting. Vice-Chancellor John McCardell took the stage to express the importance of the Sewanee community and the shared celebration. He closed his introduction by putting on his Santa hat and encouraging the crowd to walk out to the giant tree on University Ave.
The weather cleared up completely, so the excited guests moved outside to admire the main attraction of the afternoon. Finally, after a countdown from 10, the holly tree was lit up with thousands of sparkling bulbs.
People stayed for a couple more minutes, enraptured with the amazing sight, then most went back inside to continue conversing and nibbling on the delicacies catered by the staff of McClurg Dining Hall.
“It was great to start December with this event. I loved the hot apple cider and the acapella group, they really brought me the mood of the season,” said Noah Kersten (C’22). “Also, I must mention Dr. McCardell’s hat because that absolutely crowned the afternoon!”
Around 6 p.m., Convocation Hall started to empty out and Sewanee’s residents headed home with happy smiles. Some of them turned back just for a second to have a last look on the enchanting tree. It was truly a pleasant afternoon, which held some moments of peace despite the upcoming tough period of final examinations.