“This is what gets the holiday started,” said President Madeleine Wing Adler as people drifted out of her living room, finishing their red and green sugar cookies and congratulating the president on another excellent ceremony.Students and faculty alike piled into Tanglewood last Tuesday to celebrate the annual tree lighting ceremony and initiate the West Chester University holiday season with festive, traditional songs and hymns.
“It was an enjoyable, fun time,” said WCU senior Adam Gumble who played in the band under the direction of Dr. John Villella.
With the lighting of both the Menorah and the Christmas tree, Adler said the event tied into an ongoing legacy of building a sense of community within the university and its surrounding areas.
Adler said that the lighting ceremony signified the opportunity to be inclusive and to bring together diverse groups of peoplesuch as “alumni, donors, students, staff, professors, [and] community members” under the common bond of love for WCU. WCU student Joshua Goodin said that through learning about the ceremony via involvement in Residence Life and Housing, he decided to attend.
As a first-year student, he noted that, for him, the highlight of the evening was observing the lighting of the Menorah. Commenting on the presence of diversity and his background with Christmas, he said he enjoyed the “new experience [of] seeing how Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah.”
A WCU administrator reflected on the importance of the event, saying that celebrations like the tree lighting help people “put away bad thoughts about the negative things in the world” and allow them to focus on family, friends, peers and associates as positive, lasting, valuable influences.
Prior to the event, faculty and staff began gathering during their annual holiday reception. Professors from various departments such as political science, communications, history and English turned out to participate.
Gail Haney, a member of the president?s staff, said the reception allowed Adler to say “thank you to the faculty for all their hard work” during the school year.
Adler is the first president to implement another staff reception for “second shift” employees who work during the evening and twilight hours. She said the staff receptions, coupled with the holiday choral concert reception and the tree lighting ceremony all work together to begin the season and unify the community.
Adler commented that this was her 13th year attending the tree lighting ceremony. The tradition in its modern form dates back at least to 1986 under former WCU President Dr. Kenneth Perrin.
Many in attendance wore smiles as they commenced the holiday season.
Amid cheers and exuberance following a joyous round of caroling, President Adler admonished everyone kicking off the new holiday season to “have a healthy and wealthy new year.