COVID-19 prevented my friends and I from experiencing a lot of Fairfield traditions last winter as first-year students, one of which being the magnificent annual tree lighting ceremony!

I received a notification email for the event a little over a week ago and immediately marked Monday, Dec. 6 off on my calendar, full of excitement. To some, it may seem silly to hold so much eagerness and anticipation for merely seeing lights flash on a Christmas tree for the first time, but it was more than that. 

The Christmas spirit brings everyone together and all that can be felt is pure joy. Sure, a small part of this joy may have had to do with my friends and I still swooning over any opportunity to spend time with others outside our small group, since last year there were none, but nevertheless it was a great experience!

The tree itself is huge, seeming more wide than tall, and sits right in front of the Egan Chapel of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Strings of colorful lights wrap the entire tree, with a glistening star on the very top. 

Students, faculty, administrators and guests started gathering as early as quarter of 6 p.m. to watch the first lighting of the tree, which was scheduled to happen at 6:15 p.m. As more and more people gathered, smiles began to spread and happiness gleamed in everybody’s eyes. 

Those who attended were treated to delicious sugar and gingerbread cookies, with hot chocolate to wash it all down. I chose a sugar cookie that was shaped like a Christmas tree, since I felt it fit the event, and it was delicious! There were also snowflakes and bell decorated ones.

After grabbing some delicious holiday treats, one could make the night all the more better by grabbing a Stags Santa hat, which was being handed out to everyone at zero cost. This was a big surprise to my friends and I and we were all excited to throw on our hats! 

This was also one of my personal favorite aspects of the night because seeing everybody in the same Santa hats heightened the sense of community that was cultivating. I love Fairfield University but we don’t have big football games and tailgates like most state schools do, to foster a strong sense of community. I think that makes it all the more special when Fairfield hosts events that bring a lot of us together, even if it’s as simple as lighting our Christmas tree up with matching Santa hats!

Santa and Lucas the Stag were there to take pictures with and say hello to everyone, as well. At roughly 6:30 p.m. President Mark R. Nemec along with his wife and daughter began the countdown. Everybody joined in and pulled out their cameras, and as we all reached the final number and chanted “One!,” the candy cane lever was pulled, lighting up the entire tree.

There was a loud cheer from everyone and carols were sung immediately after by the Fairfield University acapella groups, The Bensonians and Sweet Harmony. Christmas songs filled the air, glistening colorful lights shone upon all who gathered around the base of the tree, and hearts filled with joy. 

My friends and I had a wonderful time and I am so happy to have been able to finally take part in this Fairfield tradition. It finally feels like Christmas, which I’m so thankful for!

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