Holiday cheer illuminates the Taylor Quad

Photo credit: Jessica Banks

With Rexburg’s bitter cold temperatures nipping at BYU-Idaho students since early November, the whole community is ready for some holiday cheer. On Nov. 18 and 19, BYU-I’s student support put on A Campus Christmas for students, faculty and families to kick off the holiday season before students go home for Thanksgiving break and begin preparing for finals.

This is BYU-I’s fourth year doing A Campus Christmas. It originally started with just decorative lights spreading across the Taylor Quad, but over the years has evolved into something more.

Allen Jones, the faculty director of student support, was in charge of the event.

“(It is) something that can bring the university and community together,” Jones said. “Students, employees and families come together and kick off the holiday season. We just want you to feel part of the Christmas spirit and light the world.”

A Campus Christmas includes dancing, free hot chocolate and donuts, ornament making, cookie decorating and more.

Most years, the campus Christmas event has only been one night, but this year because of COVID-19 restrictions, they separated the event into two nights.

Each night they lit up the 29-foot tree outside the John Taylor Building to celebrate the start of the tree’s permanent illumination over the coming months. On top of the tree rests a four-foot star, lighting the Taylor Quad with the spirit of Christmas.

Lines full of students eager for hot chocolate and Christmas-colored donuts stretched all around the Taylor Quad at the climax of the event. Members of student support bore the cold to serve treats.

Jones has help from the students he works with in putting the event together. Joey Vogl, a sophomore studying biomedical science and student lead for the event, said that this is the biggest event student support puts on each year.

In 2018, the first year it took place, they had a decent-sized crowd. However, that was nothing compared to the 6,000 attendees they had in 2019. This year they are hoping to surpass that number. In 2020 they weren’t able to have an event, but they still lit trees around campus to show the spirit of Christmas was alive, even while campus was somewhat shutdown.

He said this event took the better part of a month to put together and organize. There are a lot of moving parts, including working with AV on campus for the music, the electrical and grounds crew to get the lights up and running, the theatre department for the performances and food services for the donuts and hot chocolate.

Vogl answered the question many students probably wonder: A Campus Christmas in November? And even before Thanksgiving?

“When students come back, they’re a little bit more focused on finals,” Vogl said. “There’s only about two weeks left after we come back so we want to make sure that we kick off with enough time to celebrate. We want people to come and enjoy the lights on the quad and experience the peace and serenity it brings. It goes back to the spirit of BYU-Idaho, you can feel it in the Christmas season.”

The bulk of activities took place inside the Hyrum Manwaring Center due to the darkness and cold.

Not only did the event have fun activities for everyone, some of the crafts could be service opportunities. One station included making ornaments. The participants either made an ornament for their own tree or to donate to the senior center or hospital.

Jane Osterhout, a sophomore studying recreational therapy and a coordinator for the organization I-service on campus, helped run the ornament station.

“I just feel like that’s the reason for this season,” Osterhout said. “A lot of people actually requested that we do something for Christmas that’s service oriented, so that’s one reason (we do it) but also it’s just, probably the best way to bring Christmas spirit.”

Cindy De Abreue, a senior studying civil engineering, attended the event with her roommates. She is an international student from Venezuela so she doesn’t have any family near her.

Her favorite part of the event was the school’s hard work to make everyone feel like Christmas was near. This event brought people together and gave everyone a common reason to celebrate.

“You still can have kind of a family with your roommates and do this kind of thing,” De Abreue said. “It feels like you’re not far from home. Home is where you decide where it is and where you feel loved. And this actually makes me feel very loved.”

Even though the event was only two days, the lights in the Taylor Quad will remain up through the winter months, keeping the Christmas cheer in all the cold.