Hoos ready for the holidays

Favorite traditions of University figures

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Students and faculty alike celebrate the holidays in their own special traditions. 

Celina Hu | Cavalier Daily

With the holidays quickly approaching, the spirit of the season is palpable on Grounds. Students and faculty alike are decorating their offices and dorms, gearing up to deal with their extended families and trying to remain on-task as the fall semester comes to a close.

As the most wonderful time of the year inches closer with every passing day, so do the traditional celebrations that so many students and staff partake in each year.

“Well, I guess, on Grounds I think we all look forward to the same traditions,” Associate Dean of Admissions Jeannine Lalonde said, pointing specifically to Lighting of the Lawn.

Even though Lighting of the Lawn was introduced less than two decades ago, it has quickly become the popular favorite of both students and faculty — including Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato.

“Good cheer, abundant song, dazzling lights and a spirit that lasts through December — what more could you want?” Sabato said in an email statement.

Although Lighting of the Lawn is perhaps the University’s best known tradition, it is not the only University-wide holiday celebration.

Dean of Students Allen Groves said he appreciates the University’s approach to Thanksgiving, with many domestic students taking international students home with them for the holiday.

“I like the fact that our students make an effort to look out for each other,” Groves said. “And then a few years ago, we started doing a Thanksgiving dinner for international students … so they can enjoy that.”

Both the University and Charlottesville communities have shown themselves to be welcoming to all students — international and local alike. The thoughtfulness of the students, faculty and residents here is unique.

“I came here after working at schools in Boston, and there were like probably a quarter of a million college students in Boston,” Lalonde said. “You [didn’t] really hear anyone thinking about ‘Where do those kids go for Thanksgiving? Where do they go for a holiday meal?’”

Although the University is welcoming as a whole, a true sense of community shared by students is also seen in smaller groups.

Athletes often have to stay on Grounds longer than other students, as well as having to come back earlier from winter break, fourth-year College student and swimmer Leah Smith said.

“Usually someone’s mom will come down, rent a house and cook for the whole team, which is really nice,” Smith said. “[Over winter break] dorms are usually closed for first-years, so we invite the First Years on our team to stay in apartments with us to stay during the whole break.”

It’s not just the University sponsored or centered events that connect Hoos with each other during the holidays. Each person has their own way of celebrating the season, and although it might these individual traditions may not be shared by all, they strengthen the bonds between faculty, employees, students and their loved ones.

“On Christmas day, [my family gets] together for lunch, but because there are so many of us, we have to separate into the ‘kid’ and the ‘adult’ tables,” Law student Phoebe Willis, student Board of Visitors member, said in an email statement. “The average age at the ‘kid’ table is around 27 years old and we've joked recently in my family about having to create a ‘kid jr.’ table.”

For Groves, it seems true the most important part of any party is not where it takes place, but who is there when it occurs.

“[The holidays are] the one time a year where my sister’s family and ... my family get together,” Groves said. “We really look forward to that, especially now that my niece is a second-year in college and my nephew is 26 — you know, it enhances the opportunities to have everyone together.”

One of the things that makes the holiday season so special is being with loved ones. At no other time of year is the family unit singled out and celebrated like it is during the fall and winter months.

“I think the true spirit of any holiday is about relationships, and I feel so lucky to come from a family that welcomes everyone into our celebrations with open arms,” Willis said.

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