WU Welcomes Holiday Season with Star Trees Lighting
On Saturday, Dec. 3, Willamette welcomed the start of the holiday season as it always does: by lighting the Star Trees, the five venerable giant sequoias planted under the watchful gaze of the Golden Man from his perch on the state capitol building. Before the lighting, university facilities strung up thousands of feet of lights with hundreds of colored bulbs up and down each tree.
At 6:30 p.m., a large crowd of Willamette staff, faculty and students, as well as many Salem community members, gathered at the foot of the trees in front of the steps of Waller Hall to hear words from Chaplain Ineda Adesanya on the beginning of the holiday season. The events team made efforts to make the event religiously inclusive; while in previous years, the star trees lighting has been an event to mark the start of Advent–the weeks preceding Christmas–this year, Adesanya spoke about fall and winter holidays across many traditions, including Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah and winter solstice festivals.
A group of Willamette students led the crowd from the steps in singing several Christmas and holiday songs, though it was difficult to hear them because they didn’t have microphones. Adesanya then welcomed Salem Mayor Chris Hoy to join Blitz the Bearcat in pulling the lever that lights up the trees. The crowd counted down from ten and cheered as the lights went up.
The events team also provided tents where attendees could find hot drinks and make s’mores. After the lighting, many attendees walked to Hudson Hall for a holiday concert by the University Concert Band, conducted by Dr. Qinqinq Qian Hilkert. Qian Hilkert noted that Hudson Hall was fuller than it had been in a very long time, especially with Salem community members. The concert band began with instrumental pieces, including music from “Home Alone” and “The Polar Express.” Qian Hilkert on piano and Matthew Quirarte on violin then continued the performance with “The Christmas Song” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” joined by Emerald Russell on vocals.
Russell, always excellent, led the final section, a singalong of several classic songs: “Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells.” Though the singalong was fun, it was clearly prepared very shortly in advance of the concert, leaving the student performers to think very fast on their feet.
As a whole, both the Star Tree lighting and the holiday concert were a fun way to experience some holiday cheer before break, and a welcome opportunity to see Willamette connect with the Salem community. This tradition continues to light up the dark days of December at Willamette, and will for years to come.