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Willamette Community Celebrates the Holidays with its Annual Star Trees Lighting

Eleanor Hu

Contributing Writer

The Star Trees adorned with colorful holiday lights. Photo by Anushka Srivastav.

Willamette University held the 24th annual Star Trees Lighting on Saturday, Dec. 4. Students, faculty and Willamette community members all gathered around Waller Hall to watch the nighttime lighting ceremony, which was led by the University Chaplain Ineda Adesanya and consisted of the five sequoias on the West side of campus being lit in strings of holiday lights, backdropped by festive music.

Adesanya stated at the ceremony that the Star Trees Lighting intentionally coincided with many events celebrated around the United States during November and December, including Trans Week of Remembrance, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Christmas and Kwanza. She added that the Star Trees Lighting was Willamette’s contribution to the festiveness of the season.

Adesanya detailed a brief history of the Star Trees, which were brought to the university by former Willamette President Carl Sumner Knopf from a trip to California and presented by the class of 1942 in honor of the university’s centennial anniversary. The trees were planted in the shape of a star, with each tree being one of the five points. This shape can be seen most clearly when standing in the center of the trees and looking directly up. The Chaplain quoted Knopf, who had promised both that the trees would be the “cathedral of the century,” and that they would remain on campus forever.

The sequoias are certainly a focal point at Willamette, notable not only for their enormous size (claiming their title as the tallest trees of their kind on any college or university campus in the country) but also for the many stories spread about their supposed power in determining one’s romantic fate. According to some, if you have your first kiss with a romantic partner underneath the Star Trees, you’re bound to marry them. Adesanya noted these rumors, calling the Star Trees a “place of solace and romance.”

(Photos from left to right) The Star Trees choir preforming during the Star Trees lighting. Blitz the Bearcat greeting members of the crowd. Students and community members lining up to get hot chocolate and holiday cookies. Photos by Anushka Srivastav.

Before the Lighting, the Star Trees choir performed a few familiar holiday carols, including “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Oh Christmas Tree.” The audience was encouraged to use their keys as “instruments” and sing along. After the choir finished their performance, Blitz the Bearcat was invited to the steps of Waller to turn a lever that lit the trees. The mascot led the crowd in a countdown from ten, with the final count revealing the 600 feet of lights and 1800 light bulbs used to decorate the trees. Students and families took pictures and admired both the lights and the soap “snow” that rained down over the crowd in celebration.

After the ceremony, attendees of the Star Trees Lighting were reminded of the donations of coats and other warm clothing being collected for the Union Gospel Mission. They were then invited to get a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie decorating kit to take home, as well as try out the holiday photo booth. Finally, to conclude the celebration, attendees were encouraged to attend the Family Holiday Concert in Hudson Hall, featuring performances from the University Chamber Orchestra.

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