Religious diversity shines at Festival of Lights



estival of Lights attendees watch a performance during the event.

NIckool Castro, Staff Writer

The Festival of Lights, an annual celebration of all religious holidays during the month of December, took place in D’Angelo Ballroom yesterday night at 7 p.m.

Magdaline Hurtado, vice-president of the Latin American Student Organization and Jonathan Bembry, chapter president of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. were the hosts of the event.

Students from all religious backgrounds attended the event to celebrate in unity. It is often described as a month of magic.

“It makes me feel [that] the Christmas spirit is uniting all of us,” the Italian and Spanish student, Isabel-Cristina Mendez, said.

“Seeing people from so many different religions together to celebrate… it’s amazing,” the young Spanish tutor added.

Among the religious holidays celebrated were Kwanzaa, Diwali, Rohatsu, Eid, Native American Winter Solstice, Christmas, Three Kings Day and Chanukah.

The event started with an opening prayer by a member of the Catholic Students Association, followed by the Voices of Victory, and the Catholic Student Community.

Campus organizations such as Shruti, Haraya, RAAZ, the Jewish Student Association, Coptic Society, LASO, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and Sinai’s Radiant Liturgical Dance Ministry participated in the event as well.

To cap the night, a mixed chorus along with a closing prayer took place at the end of the event.

“I think that this event represents very well the diversity of the university,” Rob Pope, B.A. Marketing, said.

“I appreciate that they care about every culture represented in the St. John’s community,” Pope said a few minutes after he finished playing the saxophone during the festival.

The Festival of Lights is one of many events that are held annually during the Winter Festival. St. John’s Winter Carnival was first held in 1990.

The festival first started to give students the opportunity to relax and enjoy part of the holiday season before stressing over finals and it has been a tradition ever since.

This year’s carnival began on Nov. 30 with an ice skating rink located at Gate 4 and will end next Monday, Dec. 7, with the Red and White Community Dessert Party.

“I’ve been attending the Festival of Lights and the Christmas Spectacular since my freshman year,” said the criminal justice major, Thalia Toro.

“I love how you can feel the holiday spirit around on campus.”