“This tree is a reminder of hope that something wonderful is coming,” Valparaiso University President Mark Heckler said as the community awaited the annual Christmas Tree Lighting on Tuesday night.
For Valpo students during winter “dead period,” that something wonderful might be a strong showing in their upcoming finals. The event was a welcome break, although relatively brief, from their studies.
Although the snow on the ground made for a beautiful backdrop, and some young men felt that just barely freezing justified wearing shorts, the weather was indeed a bit brisk. Thankfully, as always, the Harre Student Union was open to all attendees before and after the ceremony.
Students and Valpo residents mingled in good cheer, away from the elements and treated to cookies of all kinds and warm cups of cocoa and cider. People were dressed in Christmas sweaters. Some wore Santa’s hats; some wore elf hats. President Heckler wore a knit cap with a festive candycane tucked in the fold.
As the ceremony approached, the space between the Harre Student Union and the Chapel of the Resurrection filled up with friendly chatter, awaiting the President’s speech, the countdown and the official lighting of the tree. Classic Christmas tunes played on bag pipes competed with contemporary Christmas pop music until it was time to start. “The University has many cherished traditions which remind us of the things we value,” President Heckler said. “This University holds community dear. In this tree, we see community as the gathering of all those lights together.”
“I really appreciate the community aspect of the event,” VU Senior Caroline Hyde said, sipping apple cider. “Everyone from town comes out and a bunch of different student organizations get involved.”
The event, normally held during the week of Christmas concerts, was held a week after this year. Hyde appreciated being able to experience the entire event, as her commitments have previously interrupted her enjoyment of the tree lighting.
“This year I get to sing the carols after the tree’s lit!”
Indeed, most everyone joyously lent their voices to carols around the lit tree.
VU Freshman Jaina Westphal attended for the first time and was also excited for the Christmas music and tree lighting.
“It was pretty easy to convince me to come,” Westphal said, having been invited by a softball teammate.
When it comes to Christmas, Westphal is most looking forward to going home.
“I love Christmas because I get to see my family,” Westphal said, “Wisconsin isn’t very far away, but this is the season where you start to realize what you take for granted.”
“This is a time of year where we take stock and reflect,” President Heckler said. “Tonight, we lift up our lights to say there is hope for something great. This place will be a beacon of hope.”
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