NORMAN — Community members of all beliefs and perspectives came together with song and holiday spirit to ring in the holiday season at the University of Oklahoma’s annual holiday lights celebration Tuesday night in David A. Burr Park.
OU President David L. Boren said the celebration was one of the most special days of the year for him.
“Tonight is a celebration of the season, our community and its diversity,” Boren said.
Participants of the celebration enjoyed the lighting of the university’s holiday tree and menorah, singing along to holiday music, seeing Santa Claus and his elves, drinking complimentary hot chocolate and hot apple cider and eating cookies.
Boren spoke of the greatest gift one can give during the holiday season: unconditional acceptance.
“We too often measure the strength of our country in terms of military and economic strength. But too seldom do we talk about the power of kindness,” Boren said. “Kindness tells what type of society we’ll be ... If you truly love someone, you give them unconditional acceptance.”
The Singing Sooners and the OU Wind Symphony Brass performed a variety of seasonal music, including favorites such as “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Y’me Hachanuka.”
Jessica Thibodeaux, who works in OU student conduct, said coming to the holiday lights celebration with her family had become a tradition and her favorite part was everyone getting together.
“It really unites everyone,” she said.
Additionally at the celebration, Ernest Ezeugo, OU student association president, OU senior Thomas Parker Simpson, Charles Kimball, director of religious studies; and Alan Levenson, professor of Jewish history, all gave remarks about the season and various traditions.
Kimball discussed Christian traditions and said light is a symbol of knowledge and elicits a sense of hope and joy.
Levenson said despite conventional wisdom about why the menorah is lit during Hanukkah, the second book of Maccabees indicates that the menorah is closely tied to Thanksgiving.