Stony Brook University held its 19th annual Festival of Lights on Dec. 4 to celebrate the holiday season.
Organized by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Interfaith Center and several student organizations, the event brought over 100 students of various faiths and cultures together. “The Festival of Lights is a celebration of the Divine messengers of God, and tonight we are celebrating the common thread of our humanity,” Sanaa Nadim, the Islamic Chaplain and chair of the Interfaith Center, said.
The Festival of Lights featured a crafts table, where attendees painted onto glass candelabras and drew on paper dreidels, and a stage set up in the Student Activities Center Ballroom A, where clubs were allowed to celebrate their holidays through songs, poems and performances.
The Newman Club, a student organization that celebrates Catholicism, opened the night with a reenactment of “how Christ came to earth,” the club said before their performance. They were followed by Ginew Benton, Native American Celebrations representative, singer/songwriter and traditional dancer, who used his traditional drums to perform a “thank you song.”
Benton finished his song to a thunder of applause.
“Hundreds of years ago, before our people were annihilated from this land that you’re sitting on right now, hundreds upon thousands of people gathered together to feast, singing in unison,” he added at the end of his performance. “I’m happy today that we are sharing that tradition to be able to come together to share food, to share this beautiful life that we are given with one another.”
A few different organizations, like the Jewish Student Association (JSA) and, as one, the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Students Association (MSO), read poems.
Clubs also incorporated music into the event. The Stony Brook Gospel Choir (SBGC), the Asian Christian Campus Ministry and the Islamic Society of North America and MSO each sang a song to celebrate their holidays.
Jahlisiah Scott, a freshman sociology major, led the SBGC in singing a mashup of, “Joyful Joyful” and “Come Thou Almighty King.”
To celebrate Kwanzaa, three students lit a kinara — a candle holder used in Kwanzaa celebrations — to highlight Nguzo Saba, the seven core principles of the holiday. As they read one principle at a time, they too lit a candle on the kinara.
The night was completed by the First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, who sent their Handbell Choir to perform for the second year in a row. They captured the audience’s attention for the entire 15 minutes they performed. Several students in attendance, like Jhinelle Walker, a senior anthropology major, and Anuki Liyanage, a senior biomedical engineering student, said the Handbell Choir was their favorite part of the night.
Clubs also celebrated their cultures by offering food for the attendees to eat. At a table in the corner of the room, students from the Islamic Society of North America and MSO were serving falafels and baklava.
“This is a yearly tradition,” Nadim said. “[These are] delicacies throughout the Middle East, be it in Asia, Lebanon, Syria, Israel [and] Greece.”
Walker is not a first time attendee to the Festival of Lights. She came last year, and she enjoyed it so much she came back again this year.
“It’s very fascinating to learn about all the various cultural traditions that occur around the same time in the year,” she said. “So I love to see people coming forward and representing and sharing their cultures and their beliefs with others because it kind of gives you a perspective and also you get to learn something you didn’t know before.”