SHSU Tree of Light event goers treated to warm weather
Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 5, 2013 00:12
Hundreds of students, faculty and staff filled the mall for the annual Tree of Light Ceremony Tuesday.
The winter holiday tradition, which was first held in 1920, is in its 93rd year of commencement at SHSU. Since then, the ceremony has grown into a community-wide event consisting of food, performances, a canned food drive and free t-shirts.
The ceremony is the university’s oldest tradition, SHSU President Dana Gibson, Ph.D., said at the event.
“It is due to that history of honoring tradition that I think Sam Houston is such a great name in Texas education,” Gibson said.
According to Gibson, the collegiate tradition has changed and evolved over the last nine decades. The original tree of lights was placed in the middle of where the Evans Building is now.
“When they lit it, travelers could see it when they went down Highway 75 from Houston to Dallas,” Gibson said. “So it was this lighted tree on the way between those two cities.”
One of the biggest and most noticeable differences by attendees of this year’s ceremony had to do with Mother Nature.
“This is my fourth lighting of the tree ceremony and at every other one we’ve had a cold front and it’s been freezing,” Gibson said. “This is an awesome night in southeast Texas because we actually can enjoy it out here.”
Students, faculty and members of the Huntsville community all congregated in the center of campus with candles in their hands to witness the oversized evergreen tree come to life.
“Any ceremony in the holidays, I think, provides us a time to reflect on what the holiday means to you so I encourage you to do that. It’s a time for hope, it’s a time for caring, and a time to help those that are less fortunate,” Gibson said.
The spectacle was accompanied by holiday carols sung by SHSU choir members, dance routines performed by the Orange Pride dance team and refreshments of cookies and hot chocolate provided by Aramark Catering. Sam Houston State University’s Department of Student Activities hosted the ceremony.
“I always call it a smooth chaos, especially when you have t-shirts. People go crazy for t-shirts, but the event is always really smooth,” Student Activities Program Coordinator Steven Begnaud said. “It’s the holiday season, so everyone’s always really excited. Nothing really ever goes wrong and if anything does, we normally find a way to get through it. I mean, the lights didn’t come on for like 30 seconds, but that’s about as event-breaking as it will get.”
Despite how smoothly Begnaud thought the ceremony went, junior psychology major Carrissa Wolfe said she was not as impressed.
“It was only like 30 minutes long. It was way too short,” Wolfe said. “The hot chocolate was cold, and the dances, which you couldn’t even really see, were only like 20 seconds long. Last year it was much longer, so I guess I just expected more.”
Students could also donate at least two canned good food items toward the Good Shepherd Mission in exchange for a t-shirt.
According to Begnaud, the Tree of Light Ceremony is his boss Brandon Cooper’s event.
“I know it took him a couple of months, because he does everything from setting up production to actually setting the tree up which takes two or three days by itself,” Begnaud said. “And then it’s just advertising it and doing the canned good drive which all goes to the Good Shepherd Mission, so it really helps them this time of year.”
According to Gibson, the Tree of Light Ceremony partnered with the canned food drive epitomizes what SHSU strives to stand for.
“The tree of light symbolizes our communal spirit and service nature of the university, and I thank all of you that brought canned goods. That definitely measures up to that life of service,” Gibson said. “I feel blessed to be in a place that has such a wonderful feeling all year long but especially this holiday time.”