Low Plaza

Holiday Season Ushered In With Tree-Lighting Ceremony

By Jason Hollander

College Walk illuminated.

The crowds bundled up.

Students enjoyed roasted chestnuts.

Dean Austin Quigley and his two daughters at the Yule Log Ceremony.

When the countdown concluded, College Walk sprang to electrical life with an enchanting illumination that officially began the millennium holiday season at Columbia.

On the evening of Dec. 1, a few hundred students gathered in frigid temperatures to witness the annual lighting of the trees on College Walk. This event preceded by two hours another much-anticipated tree lighting ceremony--65 blocks south at Rockefeller Center.

Columbia students huddled together, sipping hot apple cider, warming their hands around paper cups and enjoying the aroma of roasted chestnuts, which were handed to students hot off an open fire. Babies sat in strollers, thoroughly bundled, and stared up at the deep purple sky, seeming to anticipate it would soon sparkle with thousands of little bulbs.

Prior to the lighting, Charles Saliba, Columbia College senior class president, welcomed the crowd and explained that the tree lighting ceremony was a new tradition started just last year. Saliba was followed by three student a capella groups: The Clefhangers, Kingsmen and Notes & Keys.

"It's a really good way to raise school spirit," said Pooja Agarwal, CC '02.

Melissa Gaman, CC '00, agreed. "It's encouraging to see so many people come out for such a new tradition," she said. "My freshman year, we all went down to the lighting at Rockefeller Center. It's nice to be able to experience something like that right here on campus."

This sentiment is just what Saliba, who conceived the idea, intended. "I feel that at Columbia, a better sense of community can be built around small events," he said. "I'd like to see this established as an annual tradition. The dream is to get the Columbia orchestra to play outdoors under these lights."

Just after the tree lighting ceremony concluded, one of Columbia's longest traditions took place nearby in John Jay Lounge: the lighting of the Yule Log. The tradition dates back to pre-Revolutionary times, but was revived by Nicholas Murray Butler 90 years ago and is now presented annually by the Blue Key Society student group.

Speaking to an audience of students, parents and many small children, Columbia College Dean Austin Quigley and Engineering Dean Zvi Galil talked about the importance of celebrating Columbia's diversity while finding the community's most common bonds, especially during the holiday season.

An important portion of the ceremony was the honoring of a University employee, and the recognition this year went to Orlando Garzon, a 30-year mechanic in the residence halls.

The event ended with a Yule Log tradition when Corrine Hoch, associate director of AIS communications, read "The Night Before Christmas," written by Clement Clark Moore, a 1798 graduate of Columbia College.

The tree-lighting event was organize by the Columbia College Class of 2000, and co-sponsored by the Class Councils of Columbia College and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, the four Class Centers and the offices of Communication Services, Facilities Management, Student Development and Activities and Public Affairs.

Published: Dec 03, 1999
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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