Hundreds gather on Boston campus to celebrate the holiday season at annual Joy and Light interfaith event

An extensive set of special lighting effects is displayed outside Northeastern's Ell Hall.
Hundreds of students, faculty and staff crowded onto Krentzman Quad on Wednesday evening for the annual Joy and Light holiday showcase. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

There were holiday lights and music, dancing amid snow flurries, and hot chocolate and cider to ward off the chill. 

Joined by President Joseph E. Aoun, hundreds of happy students, faculty and staff crowded onto Krentzman Quad on the Boston campus on Wednesday evening for the annual Joy and Light holiday showcase, a cheerful event celebrating the holiday season and the community.

“The importance of the Joy and Light event is to bring together diverse aspects of the Northeastern campus community,” explained Richard Harris, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. “And in recognition of the Joy and Light we must maintain in the midst of challenge and controversy.”

That Joy and Light was on full display.

Harris helped kick off the event as one of several Northeastern Spiritual Life leaders who offered greetings for the season from major faith groups — in his case offering a Kwanzaa greeting. 

Other greetings were issued from general interfaith well wishes; a Hanukkah greeting; a Muslim greeting; to a greeting for the Hindu holiday of Diwali; a Bodhi Day greeting; to an Advent/Christmas greeting.

Speakers included Alexander Levering Kern, executive director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service, College of Engineering student Mohammed Parkar, professor Anjum Biswas, Rabbi Mendy Posner, LGBTQ Center director Kevin Vetiac and Ji Hyang Padma, a Buddhist spiritual advisor. The group stood together as each delivered special messages to the large crowd of about 400.

“Can I hear you say ‘Joy’? Can I hear you say ‘Light’? Joy … Light … Joy … Light …,” Levering Kern said, leading the crowd.

Then the dancing, singing and poetry began.

Student dance troupe Rangila performed a Bollywood Holiday Mix, followed by the Unisons singing the Jewish text “Al Hanissim.” The Northeastern University Dance Team choreographed “Like it’s Christmas,” while Kinematix Dance Troupe performed a dance to “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Distilled Harmony, The Nor’easters and Treble on Huntington contributed performances of carols, selecting “Deck the Halls,” “Carol of the Bells,” and “Up on the Housetop,” respectively. 

Student Jaela Eaton recited the Kwanzaa poem “Unite My Brothers and Sisters,” by Sonia Eaton.

And as per Northeastern tradition, the groups all gathered for a finale. 

Of course, the student performances were only part of the showcase. 

Holiday lights were projected onto academic buildings, holiday music rang out from speakers after the student performances, and snow machines sent light flurries into the air. 

Cooper, one of Northeastern’s campus dogs — bedecked in an elf hat — took selfies with excited students. Hot cocoa and hot apple cider kept the nighttime chill in check as long lines of students patiently waited for the warm beverages.

“It’s very exciting,” said Dnyanada Deo, a graduate student from India, who is celebrating Christmas for the first time. “It’s not a festival for us at home, but it’s very nice.”

Leila Eid, executive director of signature campus events, inaugurated the showcase in 2021. She said it was wonderful to see the event embraced by the Northeastern community.

“Every year I’m amazed (and relieved) to look outside before the show starts and see how full Krentzman Quad is,” Eid said. “Students, faculty, and staff alike bundled up, posing for photos, sipping hot cocoa, and eating cookies. Everyone is there to enjoy themselves.

And as students lingered over hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies after the performances, they kept another thing in check … anticipating upcoming finals.

“We knew we wanted to take a break from our assignments and enjoy the holiday season for a bit,” said graduate student Isha Joshi as she and a friend took selfies with the light show flashing on Ell Hall in the background. 

“It was really nice,” Joshi continued. “And the hot cocoa helped with the cold.”

Cyrus Moulton is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on X/Twitter @MoultonCyrus.