Celebration of Light

By: Rachael Jennings

This week, Dublin’s campus has been glimmering, singing, and bursting with the holiday spirit. As musicians, performers, and artists have been rehearsing, choreographing, and sprucing up their pieces for the Celebration of Light, the campus has also been giggling and rejoicing in another fond Dublin tradition: Secret Santa. 

Morning Meeting has been full of acrostic poetry reveals, original poems written for Secret Santa recipients, songs with ukulele accompaniment; lockers and mailboxes have been filled with homemade cookies, holiday cards, daily compliments, candy canes, and treats; one student even left another a scavenger hunt across school. Gifts have inspired laughs, joy, and heartfelt gratitude, all while the gift-givers have remained anonymous.

All of this cheerful spirit culminated in last night’s stunning Celebration of Light. Mrs. Emily Luongo, Mr. Dylan Pierpont, Mr. Earl Schofield, and their students worked to transform the Recital Hall into a whimsical winter wonderland, and the spirit transported the room.

Celebration of Light has been a school tradition for the last twenty years. A beloved event by many, last night’s community celebration warmed hearts, witnessed passion and talent, and reminded us of the joy and hope and renewal we find in each other.

The whole evening opened with Ms. Jan Haman, who has been organizing the event for twenty years, and Mr. Bates, Head of School—accompanied by some of Dublin’s beloved faculty children—welcoming the community.

Mr. John Emerson opened the performances by reading “The Shortest Day,” which transitioned into a performance by the faculty children, who carried (flameless) candles onto stage in height order, some with the help of their encouraging parents.

“In 1994, Headmaster Chris Horgan asked me to come up with an event that would allow our community to pause and reflect on the season, while also honoring the diversity of our student body,” says Jan Haman. “Prior to that time, Christmas was celebrated in a semi-Christian ceremony in the Dublin Community Church, followed by a festive party of Santa Claus and present exchanges.”

“This year Hanukkah was on display, along with several musical numbers by the Chamber Singers, the Jazz Ensemble, and The Dubliners, along with four dance presentations, reminding us that Dance was probably the first art used by Pagan cultures in hopes of bringing back the light and its message of renewal,” says Ms. Haman.

Many student dancers choreographed their own routines.

“That’s one of my favorite parts of Celebration of Light,” says Ms. Jenny Foreman, Arts Chair. “I love seeing the hard work and energy that goes into not just the dance, but the choreography.”

Shaneil Wynter mesmerized the crowd with her spirited tap dance to “White Winter Hymnal;” Emma Williams and Lilly Bates stunned the crowd with their gracefully coordinated ballet routine to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel;” Lucy Martin, Faith Lewis, and Devyn Itula brought stunning movement to the beautiful “Winter Song;” and Adunni Abrams and Amani Natson entertained the crowd with their high-energy “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Yet dance was only one awe-inspiring part of the program.

“Here at Dublin, students have jumped into the Solstice revels over the years, lending their song, dance, music and even demonstrations to the program,” notes Ms. Haman. “One of my fondest memories is of Maria Kendall ’95, wearing a wreath of lit candles on her head in honor of St. Lucia Day, a Scandinavian tradition—and the look of fear on the Head’s face! African Americans have taught the the seven principles of Kwanzaa, Spanish speaking students related tales of the ‘Posada’ procession, many of our German students spoke about the tradition of Advent in their country, Chinese students told of the Dongzhi Festival, while the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali, was demonstrated by an Indian student. There have been traditions from France, Lithuania, England, and Mexico represented over the years, as well.”

J. P. Borrego shared a presentation on his Mexican Christmas traditions, Latin students led the Recital Hall in a rousing and jolly rendition of “Gaudeamus Igitur,” Spanish students danced, laughed, and sang along to “Feliz Navidad,” and French students shared “Vive le vent” (“Jingle Bells”). 

Clare Halacy and Emil Hristache performed a moving rendition of “Need the Sun to Break,” which certainly brought tears to many grateful eyes. Mr. Alexander Scalfano read a poem called “Seasonal Affective” that he had written just for the event. Silence washed over the audience as he read; each line rose and fell as unstoppably and quietly certain as snow. Maddie Pastan, Hannah Cheyney, and Josh Grebler read “Light the Festive Candles,” and Lilly Campbell and Grebler followed up with an amusing spin on Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song.” 

The AP Chemistry students, led by their fearless leader Dr. Joanna Smith, performed “A Visit from Pop Chem,” which involved a hilarious poem, some comical acting, spectacular chemistry experiments performed right on stage, and a host of glowing, color-morphing chemically produced productions.

The Dubliners, the senior class, the Chamber Singers, and the Jazz Ensemble led the room in songs that brought smiles as well as the glimmer of tears. One song, “Seal Lullaby,” was lovingly performed for Harvey Pierpont, Dublin’s newest family member. 

Last, each grade and dorm competed in singing different sections of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and with hoarse voices and giggling breaths, we ended the celebration in shared song.

“The Winter Solstice seemed a perfect solution to providing festivity and inclusion,” says Ms. Haman. “Not only do the shortest day and longest night of the year fall very near our Winter Break, but worldwide, many cultures have designated the Solstice as a time for recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, and rituals. These practices were a way to honor the ‘reversal’ of the ebbing sun—‘coaxing’ the gods to ensure a return of the crops, of the light, of the ‘new’ year.”

The Dubliner’s last song, Mumford and Sons’ “Winter Winds,” warmed the Recital Hall with nostalgia and hope. As they sang, “so let the memories be good for those who stay,” students and faculty members looked to one another, knowing that the memories have been good this year and that many more will be in days and years to come.

Ms. Haman sums up the spirit perfectly, in saying that “at Dublin, Celebration of Light sends us on our diverse ways, after uniting us as a community once again.” 

 Happy holidays to all!