Tonight, Columbia will usher in the final month of the decade with pomp and circumstance. In what has become an annual Columbia winter tradition, students, professors, and administrators alike will gather on Low Plaza as Columbia illuminates the lights adorning the trees on College Walk. They will then proceed to John Jay Lounge to participate in the annual Yule Log Ceremony. On a campus where many bemoan a lack of community, the Tree Lighting and Yule Log Ceremonies create a sense of tradition and collegiate pride, and all members of the Columbia community should congregate on Low Plaza at 5:45 p.m. to enjoy free refreshments as Michele Moody-Adams, the dean of Columbia College, presides over this Columbia tradition for the first time.
Though it is now an integral part of winter at Columbia, the Tree Lighting Ceremony is a relatively new tradition. According to a 1999 article in Columbia News, the first Tree Lighting Ceremony was held in December 1998 and was organized by the Columbia College class of 2000. Since then, the ceremony has acted as a way to bring all students, regardless of religious affiliation, together to watch the lighting of the trees lining College Walk. This year, CCSC invites students to join the ceremony at 5:45 p.m., which will last until 7. As per tradition, students can enjoy free hot chocolate and apple cider with cookies as they watch Dean Moody-Adams turn on the lights along College Walk.
The Yule Log Ceremony, which in recent years has immediately followed the Tree Lighting Ceremony, is a more historic tradition at Columbia. The ceremony features speeches from deans, the lighting of a log in the John Jay Lounge fireplace, and a closing reception with free desserts. According to a 1995 Columbia Record article about the event, the act of setting a log ablaze in the winter comes from Scandinavian pagan rituals, and the ceremony at Columbia traces its roots to before the Revolutionary War. Almost a century ago, former University President Nicholas Butler made the yule log lighting an annual and idiosyncratic Columbian tradition. A highlight of the ceremony is the reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” a poem composed by Clement Clarke Moore, CC 1798. The ceremony also showcases campus musical groups and is organized by the Blue Key Society.
This year, with new deans heading Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Tree Lighting and Yule Log Ceremonies will continue to gain greater significance, as they represent the continuation of time-honored Columbian traditions while new faces join and lead our community. Students should take advantage of this unique opportunity to build school spirit and community and should join the deans at these two events. Opportunities for Columbia students to gather together in a single place for no reason other than school spirit are few and far between, making tonight’s ceremonies all the more meaningful. And besides, how many other chances do we have to eat dessert on Columbia’s dime?