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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Festival of Lights Illuminates the Holiday Season

    As a Stony Brook tradition, the Festival of Lights was held once again in honor of the holiday season. Running for its seventh time, the event recognized various beliefs, faiths, and traditions, celebrated by people during this time of the year.

    The event was organized by various cultural campus groups and departments. The SAC auditorium was decorated in the holiday spirit, with a circle of displays that explained the customs and significance of observed holidays. Each display featured a sampling of traditional holiday foods. The highlights of the evening were the presentations given by the various student organizations.

    “This is the second year that they are holding the program in the SAC, and it is especially nice here because we are able to combine food with religion,” said Sister Margaret Ann Landry from the Catholic Campus Ministry, “having it here has increased the interaction, and it is nice to see the symbols and signs of different religions which reflect the Stony Brook diversity.”

    “I think it’s amazing that students of different faiths can enjoy the holiday season together — taste different foods, view different displays, hear different presentations, and socialize without having to fear any bias,” said sophomore Haseena Sahib.

    The presentations began, with the Muslim Student Association (MSA). MSA members synchronously sang along to a nasheed, a melodious appraisal to God usually sung in acapella or accompanied by the daff, a drum-like instrument. There were also two poetic recitations, one of which was written and read by the MSA chaplain, Sister Sanaa Nadim.

    The poem was a tribute to the holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for a month, by refraining from food, drink, backbiting, and bad habits. At the end of the month, they celebrate the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (feast of fast-breaking). This day is a time to dress in new clothing and congregate for prayer, followed by visiting family and friends and eating. Eid ul-Adha is the other Islamic holiday that is celebrated by prayer and social gatherings.

    “This marks my seventh festival of lights celebration, but tonight has been the most special one because of the student body,” said Sister Nadim, “it’s because of these young guys and ladies [MSA members] that have made the presentation tonight truly successful.”

    The tradition of Bodhi day (Rohatsu), a Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, was highlighted. This holiday falls on Dec. 8, and focuses on meditation in efforts to enlighten oneself spiritually. There are also periods of recession before the day of Rohatsu, where prayers are chanted and make vows of personal improvement.

    Rabbi Joseph Topek opened up the stage for the story of Hanukah. This holiday commemorates the survival of Judaism through a historic time when it was suppressed by the Seleucid ruler. This miracle of religious survival is symbolized by lighting the menorah on each of the eight nights of Hanukah, as a miracle of light. Two candles were lit on a menorah, representing the second day of Hanukah, and the Hillel Choir performed numerous songs about the holiday.

    “It’s [Festival of Lights] a great program and helps showcase the diversity of the campus,” said Topek.

    The harvesting festival of Kwanzaa was described; it is a celebration to remember the African heritage and importance of family. Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, candles are lit and families discuss the seven principles, “Nguzo Saba.”

    These principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. A typical Kwanzaa display features a candle holder, fruits and vegetables, ears of corn, a straw placement, communal crop, and gifts.

    The South Asian dance group, Thillana, danced in the spirit of Diwali, India’s most important festival. Diwali, meaning “a string of lights,” is when people decorate homes and buildings with lights, and people wear new clothes, set off fireworks, serve sweets, and exchange greetings. It celebrates the forces of light — liberty, justice, and righteousness, over darkness — greed, tyranny, and evil.

    The last presentation was given by the Catholic ministries in honor of Advent, Christmas, and Three Kings Day. Until Christmas, Advent is celebrated, where Christians await for “everlasting light” or in hopes for Christ.

    The Advent wreath is used as a decoration, where the circle of the wreath represents the eternity and endless mercy of God. For Christmas, an evergreen tree is displayed to represent Jesus Christ as the source of eternal life. The tree is decorated with lights to show that “light has come into the world and the darkness does not overcome it.” Three Kings Day is the twelfth day after Christmas, which marks the end of the Christmas season.

    In the spirit of Christmas, poems on Three Kings day were recited, followed by songs chanted by the Catholic Campus Ministry Choir and the Stony Brook Gospel Choir.

    Words from Cheryl Chambers, co-chair in the office of multicultural affairs, ended the night. “With rich diversity, we are truly a multicultural campus,” she said.

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