Fireworks lit up the sky last night as the Oklahoma Christian University community welcomed the Christmas season with the ninth annual Lighting of the Commons.
Lighting of the Commons kicks off Winter Wonderland activities each year on campus. It is considered a holiday tradition for the Oklahoma Christian community, including student events coordinator Amanda Watson.
“I think it’s a fun, safe environment for people to come to,” Watson said. “A lot of it is free, people don’t even have to buy a ticket. For my family, this is our annual trip to see Santa, and this is the time my kids see Santa.”
Watson said along with the event providing a safe environment for Christmas activities, it also is a unique experience. According to Watson, Lighting of the Commons is an uncommon occasion compared to other events held on campus.
“It’s just something different we do at OC,” Watson said. “We usually have speakers, we have Spring Sing, we have these different things that are performing arts or lecture series, so I feel like this is a big event kind of different for our community and alumni.”
This year, Lighting of the Commons featured a variety of holiday events from free horse-drawn carriage and train rides, a traditional mug and hot chocolate for $5, a fireworks display and the Soundings Christmas Market.
The Christmas Market is modeled after European-style Christmas markets with an array of kiosks in the Pavilion selling items such as handmade crafts, skincare products, truffles and baked goods. Junior Ian Jayne, a member of Soundings, helped coordinate this year’s market.
“Because it coincides with Lighting of the Commons, the effect is pretty magical,” Jayne said. “The Christmas lights, the cocoa and cider, it’s an awesome way to start the countdown to Christmas. So many people — current students and faculty, alumni and people from the community — come to the event and lend it a wonderful Christmas feeling.”
Jayne said the Christmas Market helps spread holiday cheer. According to Jayne, the Market, along with the Lighting of the Commons Christmas décor around campus, rings in the Christmas season.
“I love the Christmas Market’s vibe,” Jayne said. “It’s usually chilly, which means you have to have something warm to drink and several layers — the official start of winter. I love how many people show up, and it really feels like Christmas once the Commons have been lit and the Christmas Market takes place.”
Along with fireworks, hot chocolate and Christmas shopping, a familiar face joined in on the fun last night. Each year Santa Claus takes a break from his busy holiday schedule to fly down to Oklahoma Christian because he said the campus is dear to his heart.
“Oklahoma Christian is a special place filled with special people,” Claus said. “I just want to be a part of it.”
Claus said when the lights illuminate the campus, the countdown to Christmas begins, and signals to students the end of classes is near.
“I think whenever all the lights on campus come on, everybody know it’s time for Christmas,” Claus said. “Thanksgiving is past. We all enjoyed it, and enjoyed our families, but now we’re excited about Christmas. Also, it gives a warning to the students that we’re nearing the end of semester, and we need to finish strong.”
According to Claus, another reason he makes it a priority to visit Lighting of the Commons is because no one on campus is on the naughty list. However, Claus said a few faculty members were close to being removed from the nice list.
“There’s not one on the naughty list,” Claus said. “There are a couple that are really close, but I’ve worked with them, and they’re having to do some extra work to get done to do a little penance.”