6 Colleges with Heartwarming Holiday Traditions

The Winter Holiday season is rife with the opportunities for merriment, and magic. Many schools decorate, and there is likely a concert or two in honor of the season (and the end of the semester). But some schools take it to the next level. Here is a shortlist—just the tip of the iceberg, really—of schools with fun holiday traditions.

Roberts Wesleyan College – Christmas Gala

This holiday tradition involves an annual gala.

Flickr user Henry Huey (note: RWC not pictured)

This annual Christmas Gala ushers in the season with joy and music! Roberts Wesleyan College students in the brass, string, jazz, and vocal ensembles perform for guests and other students. In addition to live music, guests wander through the Davison Art Gallery. There is a reception following the concert. One of the nice things is that all proceeds from ticket sales go to music student’s scholarships.

Located in Rochester, NY, RWC is a Free Methodist-affiliated school. It is home to just over 1,300 undergraduates.

University of Redlands – Feast of Lights

This holiday traditions revolves around the biblical story of Christmas.

Flickr user Till Westermayer

2016 marks the 69th annual Feast of Lights. This performance mixes songs, tableaux, spoken word, and instrumental productions. All pieces revolve around the biblical story of Christmas and the symbolism of the star leading the three wise men. After the performance comes the Ceremony of Candles. Since 2009, the school has asked the public to bring non-perishable food items to give to low-income and homeless families, thereby making it a real feast.

The University of Redlands is located in Redlands, CA. Almost 4,000 undergraduates attend school here and choose from over 40 programs of study. The school was chartered in 1907 and opened to students in 1909, thereby making the Feast of Lights a tradition lasting over half the school’s history.

University of the Incarnate Word – Light the Way

This holiday tradition has been going on for 30 years.

Flickr user Little Christmas

This holiday tradition has been going on for 30 years. In November, the University of the Incarnate Word kicks off the holiday season with a bang. This year on November 19th, over 8,500 people came to witness the lights turn on. Guests view fireworks and get to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus (who entered via horse-drawn carriage) in addition to the reception. The school uses almost one million lights to decorate the UIW campus. The lights are on nightly until January 6, 2017. The public is free to explore through that date.

The University of the Incarnate Word is located in San Antonio, TX. It has a strong Roman Catholic background and is the largest Catholic university in Texas with 6,500 undergraduates. In addition to the display of lights, the school asks the public to donate toys to the Elf Louise Toy Collection.

Purdue University – Purdue Christmas Show

This holiday tradition is now in its 83rd year! The Purdue Musical Organizations runs the Purdue Christmas Show. It is held every year on the first weekend of December. Thanks to technology, the show is now available to people; PBS airs a one-hour version of the show throughout the holiday season. The student singers in this show are not music majors—Purdue does not have a school of music. These are students studying in all sorts of fields who just happen to love singing and performing. The elaborate sets, which take three months to build, add to the fun festivities.

Purdue University can be found in West Lafayette, IN. This public university hosts over 30,000 undergraduates, any of which are free to audition for the music groups on campus and therefore the annual Christmas Show.

Seton Hall University – Christmas at the Hall

Flickr user Prayitno

Flickr user Prayitno

At Seton Hall University, the annual tree lighting ceremony is merely the beginning of the festivities. With no less than 16 events for students, faculty, staff, and the public to enjoy, there is no shortage of Christmas spirit leading up to winter break. However, there’s something special about the lighting of a 60-foot Norway Spruce with 43,000 lights. There’s caroling, toy donations, and hot chocolate to enjoy the evening. Around campus, students participate in 12 Acts of Christmas Kindness, a holiday tradition started by Hillary Sadlon in 2013.

To join in the festivities, you can travel to South Orange, NJ, where Seton Hall is located. With almost 6,000 undergraduate students, there is much potential for making new friends in the Catholic tradition.

Pacific Lutheran University – Scandinavian Culture Center Events

Flickr user poppy

Flickr user poppy

How many universities or colleges can you think of with large public winter festivals from Scandinavian traditions? Regardless of your answer, you can now add Pacific Lutheran University to your list. This school hosts three, yes three, different holiday traditions.

The Norwegian Christmas Service (called Julegudstjeneste if you speak Norwegian) has been going on since 1975. Students in the Norwegian program use their language skills to read scripture and singing in class choirs. This special candlelight service is held in early December and is open to the public. The Sankta Lucia Fest is another tradition honoring a young woman who stood up for her beliefs despite persecution. Sweden celebrates this holiday tradition the most. At PLU, there is a public concert. For over 60 years, people celebrated this holiday. Yet another long-standing tradition, this one being over 20 years old, is the Nordic Christmas Fest. This lively event is filled with great food (all in the Nordic tradition, of course), fun conversations, and entertainment for the night.

If joining in these Scandinavian traditions is your idea of holiday fun, take a trip to Tacoma, WA, where the 3,000 undergraduates of PLU live and learn. If these three events are only one departments offering, then there are likely many others to take part in as well!

Interested in any of these holly-jolly colleges? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to discover if they (or any other school) are a good academic fit for you!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.