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Valparaiso University celebration ushers in holidays

Members university's sororities fraternities sing Christmas carols after lighting campus Christmas tree Thursday December 5 2013. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times

Members of the university's sororities and fraternities sing Christmas carols after the lighting of the campus Christmas tree on Thursday, December 5, 2013. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 7, 2014 6:49AM

VALPARAISO — The cold temperatures and stiff wind didn’t stop a large crowd from gathering Thursday evening outside of the Christopher Center Library for the annual Valparaiso University tree lighting and fireworks.

“Is everybody ready to light the tree?” President Mark Heckler said. “I think this is the biggest crowd we’ve had so far. It’s one of my favorite events of the year.”

Before the fourth annual tree lighting, which also included caroling, students, faculty and staff jammed the library lobby, posing for pictures in a photo booth, and munching cookies and hot chocolate.

The evening’s festivities also included a Jingle Jog, with about 150 runners donating nonperishable food items or toys as an entry fee.

And of course, Santa was there, tucked inside the library’s Fireplace Lounge.

This was the second year Santa made it to the campus event, which organizers said drew 150 kids this year. The university’s Hourly and Salaried Concerns Committee helped bring in the jolly old elf, and rounded up books and candy canes for the children.

“It’s been a great addition to bring out more faculty and staff and their families,” said Bonnie Dahlke, assistant dean for first-year students.

Back in the lobby, senior Emily Rose, an elementary education major from Michigan City, got ready to head outside to help lead the carols with her sorority.

She’d festooned her Santa hat with a green sparkly ribbon.

“I really love Christmas. I’m excited to be here. This is my favorite thing that we do. I wouldn’t miss it,” she said.

Before leading a countdown to light up the tree, Heckler said there’s a lot of talk about light this time of year, particularly during the days of Advent leading up to Christmas.

“I like to think about the bright light in each and every one of you,” he said, adding light also ties in with the university’s motto, “In thy light, we see light.”

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