As nerves heat up for finals week, students were able to take a study break at the Christmas tree lighting on the Horseshoe Thursday night. The 64th annual Tree Lighting ceremony allowed attendees to engage in holiday festivities on campus.
For some out-of-state students, this helped USC feel like a home away from home.
First-year undeclared student Briana Rodrigues is from Massachusetts and said since she goes to school far away from home, spending holidays with family means a lot more to her now.
“Every year, my family, we go and find a Christmas tree at one of those Christmas tree places and then we go to our house and we put it there," Rodrigues said. "We decorate it every year and this year I’m missing that so, I was glad that I was able to come here.”
Rodrigues hopes that she’ll have time in her schedule to attend the ceremony in future years as long as she’s not busy with finals.
Immediately following the Tree Lighting, attendees gathered for refreshments such as mini sandwiches, peppermint bark, croissants, a variety of cookies and hot chocolate at the President's House.
At 6 p.m., speakers started taking the stage one by one and relaying what Christmas spirit meant to them. University President Harris Pastides spoke about how this would be his last time conducting the ceremony and how proud he was to be a central part of the Carolina family.
For many students who came out, attending the Tree Lighting event served as a quick break from studying for finals. For others, the ceremony allowed them to reminisce on holiday festivities from earlier years of their lives.
“We usually go to my aunt’s house and we do dinner on Christmas Eve. And then on Christmas Day, we just do it with our immediate family.” said first-year public health student Diana Rizzo about her holiday traditions.
Rizzo attended the ceremony with a group of friends and went to the President's House afterwards to grab a few snacks.
“I thought it was really good to see the community come together and do something fun. Not just students, but like community members and their children and alumni and faculty," said Rizzo. "I’ll definitely come back next year, I thought it was a lot of fun. And then afterwards getting to go to the president’s house. I thought it was really nice of him to invite everybody. It’s really homey and welcoming and very well-decorated and it was nice that he was welcoming and let everyone come in."
While some students found out about the event from fliers, others heard about it via word of mouth.
“My friend ... told me and we all decided to come together.” said first-year nursing student Emily Sholly.
Sholly grew up attending the tree lighting ceremony in her hometown, and she was happy she got to experience a similar tradition here. Sholly stayed for the entirety of the event and plans on returning next year.
“Seeing Pastides and Mrs. Pastides speak for the last time at their tree lighting, that was pretty special," she said. "He always reminds us that we’re all family here and that Christmas is about more than just getting presents.”