Celebration of Lights to be Held with Masks and Social Distancing

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here on campus as SMU prepares for its annual Celebration of Lights.

This year things are looking a little different as COVID-19 continues to change the way we celebrate and enjoy events. Since the start of the pandemic, a new normal of wearing masks and social distancing has affected annual occasions and celebrations.

Residential students are required to leave SMU early this semester because classes will be held online following Thanksgiving as part of the amended academic calendar this fall. SMU and the Student Life Foundation planned the Celebration of Lights early this year to give students a proper holiday send off.. The event website says that guests can enjoy performances from socially distanced pods or small group circles.

Campus Events Chair of the Student Foundation at SMU, Eliana Abraham, assures that regulations of masks and social distancing will help with safety of the students.

“All attendees are expected to wear a mask at all times. Socially distanced pods will be marked throughout the lawn for the audience with a limit of 10 people per pod, all activities will be sanitized with wipes after each person, and all food/drinks can be enjoyed at home, ” Abraham said.

What is uncertain is how this event will play out for the students and faculty during a pandemic. Some students are extremely thrilled and excited to be able to celebrate the holidays with their friends, while others have anxieties about their health and safety.

“I feel uncertain about the celebration of lights event at SMU,” Nora Jandres. “COVID cases in Texas are increasing and after what happened at the football game in October. What if students feel that this an opportunity to just be careless and place others in danger by not following CDC guidelines?”

As of today, Dallas County has had over 110,000 active cases and more than 1,100 deaths since the first confirmed case on March 9th, according to the Dallas County COVID-19 dashboard.

Cases are at an all-time high, and SMU is still at a high-operational level.

The thought of multiple students on Dallas Hall Lawn, regardless of social distancing and mask requirements, is causing anxiety for many students like junior Sydney Delacretaz.

“I think there will definitely be too many people for that small of an area, every year it’s so crowded,” said Delacretaz. “Hopefully social distancing will be maintained.”

The CDC recommends virtual-only events on college campuses in order to maintain the lowest risk of spreading COVID-19. The biggest fear with continuing to hold this event at SMU is if students will adhere to guidelines of social distancing, mask requirements and proper hand hygiene. How will these rules be enforced in an outdoor setting with multiple students in proximity? Is there a limit to the number of students allowed at the event?

The Student Life Foundation at SMU, responsible for this event, assures safety with social distancing and masks required at all times.

The event website says, “guests will enjoy performances in socially distanced pods, or small group circles…This event is limited in-person to students, faculty, and staff with an SMU ID. This event will be live-streamed for remote students and other members of the larger SMU and Dallas community to enjoy from the comfort of home.”

However, there are students who are eager to get out and enjoy the holiday event.

“I think students are over COVID and ready to bring ‘normal’ life back. This is a great holiday event for us all to just have some fun! I think as long as students are wearing masks, I think it will be okay and safe,” Bailie Garza, a senior at SMU said.

Abraham, who has worked diligently with the Student Foundation to put this event together, guarantees the Celebration of Lights will be safe to attend.

“The Student Foundation has been committed to following all Event Guidelines that have been posted by SMU’s Student Affairs and we are looking forward to bringing Celebration of Lights to everyone in a safe manner,” Abraham said.

Despite efforts from campus organizations and faculty to maintain safety, some students aren’t willing to take the risk.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s a good idea. It is so dark that there is no way to fully enforce social distancing and masks,” according to Monica Figueroa, a junior at SMU. “There are going to be a bunch of students near each other and it just seems unsafe, even if it’s outdoors. I do not want to risk it, so I am choosing to attend it virtually this year!”

Whether you plan to attend this event or not, remember to keep yourselves safe. Wear your mask, practice social distancing and if you think it’s not worth the risk, attend the event virtually!

If you’re interested in reading about the history of Celebration of Lights, click here.