The fall 2020 semester was shortened due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. This shortened semester meant many classic holiday traditions at Oklahoma Christian University were altered to fit the new schedule.
In the 2020 and 2021 fall semesters, traditions normally held in December occurred during other events like Homecoming. Executive Director of Events Management, Kerri Cunningham, has overseen the execution of these events.
“I think traditions are really important. With higher education and even general life, it’s easy to stop a tradition,” Cunningham said. “What we can control, we should control, so with something like Lighting of the Commons, students come and alumni come back.”
The annual Lighting of the Commons took place during Homecoming in 2020 and 2021. Senior Annie James said this event brings forth a great sense of community for students and alumni.
“I think it’s added a layer of closeness on campus that bigger schools don’t have,” James said. “Walking around the Christmas Market seeing friends and professors really makes it feel like one big family. It really makes you feel the bond everyone has on campus.”
When the university announced the shortened fall semester, there were concerns for the holiday traditions continuing.
“It made us be a little bit more creative but moving things up so we can celebrate,” Cunningham said. “Sometimes we think we have to do things in a certain order and a certain time but we don’t. One thing COVID-19 taught us is to be creative.”
However, senior Emma Stanbrough said there are many positives to the shorter semester as well as drawbacks.
“I actually like it being shorter because you actually get a small break if you have winter classes, and it’s nice to get everything done and over with,” Stanbrough said. “It does kind of mess with all the events that happen at the school and it feels a bit rushed.”
Cunningham said the shift in the academic schedule has allowed for the campus to be more creative with their time.
“The academic schedule will continue to be shortened because it is such a benefit to students to have those extra classes during the winter session,” Cunningham said. “It is such an advantage and they have had such a great participation in that because this schedule seems to work.”
The events office has continued to provide opportunities for students to celebrate the holiday season.
“Holiday traditions, especially at Christmas, just make people happy,” Cunningham said. “I think
it just sets a mood and you’re always going to be reminded that there is more to be happy about than not.”
James said her favorite Oklahoma Christian holiday tradition is Lighting of the Commons.
“My parents come every year and I get to hang out with friends and my family,” James said. “The lights, hot chocolate and booths make an environment that just warms your heart and gets you in the Christmas spirit.”
Stanbrough said the holiday season lets students get out of the classroom, and it brings all types of people together.
“I feel like they are important because it brings the school and students together and allows us to celebrate,” Stanbrough said. “It’s important to maintain because the school would lose its sparkle, you could say.”
The holiday events enrich student life and provide ways for alumni to remain connected to the Oklahoma Christian community. Cunningham said she wants students to come to the events office and share their ideas.
“This is how it should be. It should celebrate student work and creativity,” Cunningham said. “We are always open for suggestions from students.”
Although the shorter fall semester has caused many schedule adjustments, it has also allowed for students to prepare for the busy weeks ahead of them.