The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley recognized five different cultural celebrations from around the world Nov. 19 on the Edinburg campus.
UTRGV’s Campus Programming Board hosted its first annual Holiday Tree Lighting in collaboration with the Student Union, which hosted an evening of festivities at the Commons/Chapel Lawn.
The purpose of the event was to expose students to multicultural holiday celebrations and make them feel appreciated and welcomed with free food and cultural engagement. At the end of the event, the Christmas tree was lit, which is on display in the Student Union in Edinburg.
“What we are celebrating today is Christmas, New Year’s, Kwanzaa, Diwali/ Deepavali and Hanukkah,” said Dinorah Flores, an exercise science sophomore and CPB music and variety chair. “Our goals for the event is, hopefully, students that do celebrate these other holidays, that they get that feel that, ‘They care for us,’ that, ‘They’re not only just thinking of the Valley, but thinking about also everyone around the world.’”
Kwanzaa is an African-American secular observance of cultural heritage and traditional values. It takes place from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.
Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. People light candles in their homes, seek divine blessings from the Goddess of Wealth and exchange gifts, according to the diwalifestival.org website.
Hanukkah marks the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees after its desecration by the Syrian-Greeks, according to chabad.org. The festival of lights includes eating foods fried in oil such as latkes, or potato pancakes, playing with a dreidel, or spinning top, and gifts of money to children.
Raul Leal, a student organization program specialist for Student Involvement, said the event is meant to expose students to various celebrations.
“The ultimate goal and purpose of the event is to provide students with a cultural experience that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Leal said. “So, we’re exposing them to various kinds of winter celebrations that happen across the globe to provide them with that cultural immersion that you don’t typically get here in the Valley.”
Students created wreaths that will be donated to Arbor View Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Edinburg. Children sang their favorite holiday songs and the UTRGV Tuba Euphonium performed holiday classics. Refreshments were served.
Kinesiology junior Manny Quiroga, who attended the event, said such events boost moods on campus.
“It brings the students together and, so far, it’s been a fun experience,” Quiroga said. “I get to socialize with other students from other organizations and checking out new cultures for Christmas.”
A holiday celebration also took place on the Brownsville campus.