A Very Bright Holiday Season for Stony Brook

By Raimundo Ortiz & Luis Gronda

Midway through December, college campuses across the country are gearing up to celebrate the holidays before finals are over and students leave for the winter break. Stony Brook University is no different, as it recently hosted the Festival of Lights on the West Campus and the Lighting of the Windmill on the Southampton campus.

As a school that includes majors in environmental studies and sustainability studies, the windmill at Stony Brook Southampton represents a big part of a small campus.

The windmill recently received a $250,000 facelift, which the Southampton campus celebrated with a lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 4.

Stony Brook Southampton Dean and Vice President Mary Pearl, State Senator Ken LaValle and U.S Congressman Tim Bishop were among the public officials who attended and spoke at the windmill lighting, which has become an annual tradition at Stony Brook Southampton.

“It’s a celebration of the symbol of our entire campus,” said Camellia Lleris, a Stony Brook Southampton student who was among the group that sang holiday carols as the windmill was lit. “It’s on a lot of the stationary and it just represents us and the island.”

The windmill represents both the past of Stony Brook Southampton and the future of the campus and sustainable energy. The windmill was first built in the 18th century and was once home to Tennessee Williams, author of the play A Street Car Named Desire.

The windmill was renovated in 2007 after Stony Brook University purchased the 82-acre campus that included the windmill. $250,000 was put towards the renovation, which was completed earlier this year.

More than 200 people, students and community members alike, attended the 9th annual windmill lighting.

“The windmill really is an iconic presence,” said Mary Pearl, the Dean of Stony Brook Southampton. “It is a symbol of wind energy. What could be more historical and more futuristic at the same time?”

Back on west campus, Stony Brook presented the 9th annual Festival of Lights on Wednesday, Dec. 9, which is an intercultural program celebrating the holiday season. Every holiday from Christmas to Hanukah and Diwali were all represented at the event.

Student groups like The Hillel Foundation for Jewish life and the Muslim Students Association were at the event, performing songs, dances and poems about their respective holidays.

What was notable about the event was the attendance. The Student Activities Center Auditorium was close to full capacity as people from every religion packed into their seats to get into the holiday spirit.

Joy Gluzman, Program Director for The Hillel Foundation, has had a role in organizing this event since its inception nine years ago and has seen it grow over the years.

“For me, it’s a history, it’s a memory,” Gluzman said. “It started out as a small thing that we used to do in the SAC lobby and now it’s this huge event and that’s amazing to see.”

Others like Sister Margret Ann Landry, chaplain of the Catholic Campus Ministry, see this event as a way for students of many different backgrounds to come together in one place.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students of various religions to demonstrate things about their faith in both the cultural aspect and the religious aspect,” Landry said.

This is especially true for Stony Brook student Steven Tallia, who had recently converted to Islam a mere three days before the Festival of Lights.

“It’s been months in the making, but all it comes down to is that this is what feels right for me right now,” said Tallia, a computer science major, on why he decided to change from Christianity to Islam. “Everyone has their own path to god, and Islam is the one that makes sense for me right now.”

With events like the Festival of Lights and the windmill lighting, Stony Brook made sure students got the chance to get into the holiday spirit before going into the grind that is finals week.

Festival of Lights Lineup

Christmas – This is the annual holiday that is celebrated on Dec. 25 and commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. From Mexico to Russia to the Philippines, countries all around the world celebrate Christmas.  As part of the Christmas tradition, people decorate their homes. The main decoration is the Christmas tree, which is generally placed in the living room. The tree itself is decorated with ornaments like bulbs, family pictures and an angel or a star on the top. Although this is not done in every home, some also put stockings in the living room. Each member of the family gets a stocking and they are usually stuffed with small gifts or candy. Music is also a big part of this holiday. Songs like “Silent Night,” “O Holy Night” and “We Three Kings” are just a few of the tunes listened to during that time of the year.

Hanukah – Hanukah, which means “dedicate,” is the eight-day Jewish holiday that celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The miracle of the light is celebrated by lighting the menorah with an additional candle for each night of Hanukah. Common cuisine that is served during Hanukah includes potato pancakes and donuts. They are cooked with oil, which serves as a symbol for the holiday.

Kwanzaa – The word “Kwanzaa” means fresh fruits in Swahili. This holiday is a cultural gathering where traditional African cuisine is served. It is also about celebrating African heritage and remembering the importance of family. Kwanzaa is celebrated from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1, and on each day family members light a candle and discuss one of the “Nguzo Saba” or seven principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).

Ramadan, Eid ul-fitr, eid ul-adha – These are three major celebrations in the Muslim faith. Ramadan is the month of fasting, where people fast from dawn until sunset. Fasting consists of abstinence from things such as food, drink and all bad habits. This enables Muslims to exercise self-control and share the feeling of pain that the poor feel. This brings them closer to Allah.

Eid Ul-Fitr is the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan. People celebrate by eating and coming together for spiritual prayer and visiting others’ homes.

Eid Ul-Adha celebrates the sacrifice of prophet Abraham to his son Ismael. For this holiday, Muslims travel to Mecca, perform a pilgrimage and visit the Kaaba. Those who do not travel to Mecca come together for a day of prayer. Then they feast on a grand meal and visit each others’ homes.

Native American Winter Solstice – This holiday celebrates the return of the sun to warm the earth. Activities take place in the kiva and include reverent slience, fasting and humility and eating of sacred foods in order to achieve spiritual focus. Fry bread is often consumed during this holiday. Many indigenous people eat this bread and it is made of cornmeal, flour, rolled oats and wheat bran. It can also be made of eggs and blueberries. It is eaten like any other bread, but accompanied with a soup or a stew.

Diwali – Diwali, which means “a string of lights,” is India’s most important and popular festival. All of India glows with lights as they celebrate it over several days with new clothes, fireworks and greetings. The central point of this festival is to celebrate the victory of the forces of light, which are liberty, justice and righteousness over darkness – greed, tyranny and evil.

Source: Stony Brook University Festival of Lights Event Program

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