Stony Brook University’s 15th annual Festival of Lights took place on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 2, bringing students of all backgrounds and ethnicities together to rejoice in the holiday spirit.
The program serves to spread awareness about the diversity of religions, by highlighting prominent holidays and celebrations. Tables covered in different cultural foods lined the perimeter of the Sidney Gelber Auditorium in the Student Activities Center.
The program was organized and coordinated by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Interfaith Center, along with 14 student organizations. About 150 students representing all different cultures and ethnicities joined representatives of the various clubs and organizations, many standing with eggnog in hand at high tables.
Others sat at the arts and crafts table, a Festival of Lights staple, creating miniature wreaths and ornaments. Organized by the Craft Center, these “make it, take it” activities attracted many students.
The Newman Club kicked off the night with a performance of “Jingle Bell Rock.” An individual dressed as Santa Claus danced alongside the swaying club of jolly singers.
The program featured holidays and celebrations from a variety of faiths and ethnicities, including the Christian season of Advent and the holidays Christmas and Three Kings Day, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the feasts Eid-al Fitr and Eid-al-Adha, the Hindu festival Diwali, the Sikh festival Bandi Chhor Divas and the African-American celebration Kwanzaa. The program also included a segment on Native American culture.
Senior multidisciplinary studies major Timothy Rowland is a representative of the Native American Student Organization. The small organization of just two people, which was revived last semester due to former members graduating, is actively seeking interested members — who, Rowland said, do not have to be Native American to join.
Rowland has been a member of the organization since his freshman year, but this was his first time at the festival.
“I was very anxious because I didn’t know what to expect, so I would try to really be on top of things and try to do the best I could since we’re so small,” he said. “It actually turned out really well. I think this is a real nice event, and I’m really enjoying it.”
Members of the Shinnecock tribe performed an Eastern War and Eastern Blanket dance, bringing traditional song on stage.
Through song, dance, poetry and music, each club provided a bit of its own flare.
For the holiday of Kwanzaa, students lit the seven candles of a kinara, explaining the purpose behind each candle.
The Chinese Christian Fellowship sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and the Muslim Student Association sang, chanted and recited poetry. The Arab Language and Cultural Club recited a few religious texts.
“We want to spread awareness of the Arab Club,” sophomore biochemistry major Yasmeen Elsendiony said. “Our goal is to unify people. Just because we’re Arab doesn’t mean we’re all one color, race, etc.”
Also present was the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Life, of which members retold the story of Judaism.
Members of the Hindu Student Council stood alongside a display board, retelling the story of Diwali, the festival of lights. Next to them stood representatives of the Sikh Student Association, who spoke of the Bandi Chhor Divas, known as “Prisoner Release Day.”
Senior chemistry major Simrit Virk said the Sikh Student Association’s ultimate message was “don’t ever be selfish and always think about others.”
At the end of the night, the ceremony moved to the SAC lobby, where holiday decorations were lit.