By Ryan Breen
Campus will echo with the sounds of the 12 Days of Christmas. When the Virginia Wesleyan community gathers for the 31st Annual Holiday Tree Lighting on Dec. 5, at 5 p.m., students, faculty and staff will meet in the field behind Godwin to sing familiar and festive songs. During this year’s Tree Lighting, campus will pay tribute to a former Marlin who lost his life in a tragic accident, Slator C. Blackiston, a former French major here at VWC.
“The Tree Lighting is a very special part of the campus community,” said David Buckingham, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Enrollment Services. “The Tree Lighting ceremony started in 1984. The ceremony is held every year to pay tribute to a former VWC student.”
“While Slator C. Blackiston was in training for the Navy Seals he tragically died due to a malfunction with his parachute. The college wanted to do something special to celebrate his life and a way for his memory to live on,” Buckingham said.
Patricia Sullivan, a former French professor at Virginia Wesleyan, proposed the idea of the campus-wide tree lighting. Since Blackiston was interested in language, Sullivan thought it would be special to incorporate songs in different languages to the event.
Mavel Velasco, Batten Professor of Spanish said, “Singing songs in different languages during the tree lighting is a perfect way to remember someone who liked and appreciated speaking a foreign language. Students, at least my students, really enjoy practicing and later performing the songs.”
“It is very important to remember all of the positives that the tree lighting sheds on the campus,” said Buckingham, “It truly shows how the campus can come together to laugh, cry and to celebrate. It opens the eyes of the participants and allows them to forget about life, even for a little while. The event is very special. It is the ideal way to close the semester and it is a great way to release energy.”
The Annual Holiday Tree Lighting is something that many students look forward to each year.
“I really like how everyone has their candles and how they are happy,” junior Joshua Currier said. “It feels like a big family. I see VWC as another home for me.” Currier lives in Peterborough, Ontario. Currier misses his family and the traditions that they uphold while leading up to the holidays. Currier also said: “I love doing various Christmas activities with my family leading up to Christmas. With being so far away I miss out on them. Therefore, the lighting is something that reminds me of the fun Christmas traditions I used to do back home.”
Madison Carroll, junior, also expressed what the tree lighting meant to her. Carroll is a part of the women’s lacrosse team. Carroll said, “Our team loves being part of the tree lighting because we get to stand along other teams and organizations and sing songs like the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas.’”
Ajee Church, a member of Sigma Nu said: “The tree lighting promotes unity between Greeks, non-Greeks, athletes, non-athletes and faculty. It doesn’t matter who you are, you are welcome at the tree lighting.”
Buckingham said, “The Tree Lighting is something that the students look forward to every year. The Tree Lighting is very special. We all appreciate the sense of community that this event manifests. It speaks to vibrancy and strength of this community. The Tree Lighting will once again bring the community of VWC together. There will be old traditions during the event, as well as some newer twists such as the Vocaloholics performing.”
Associate Professor of French Alain Gabon said, “The tree lighting is a community event that reasserts we are a community and highlights the traditional spirit and values of Christmas, as we are entering that season. But the tree lighting of Wesleyan also has its own specific tradition since it is associated with one of our students, as you probably know. And finally, it is also a way for the College to bless its students, faculty and staff as they are starting their busiest and possibly most stressful week of the semester, exam week. And we know we all can use a little dose of Christmas spirit that week.”