Colleges with the Most Cheerful Christmas Traditions

Colleges with the Most Cheerful Christmas Traditions

Key Takeaways

  • Colleges with the most cheerful Christmas traditions promote campus pride and a sense of home away from home for many students.

  • The best Christmas festivities involve not only college students on campus, but the entire community.

  • The oldest Christmas traditions on college campuses in the United States began more than 100 years ago.

Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year, and on many college campuses, ’tis the season to trade textbooks for tinsel and lecture halls for halls decked with boughs of holly! It’s a time when students may take a brief but welcomed reprieve from grueling study sessions to embrace the nostalgia and cheer of the holidays.

As the snowflakes dance and the cocoa flows, college campuses are transforming into festive wonderlands, each boasting its own merry brand of holiday cheer. Forget chestnuts roasting on an open fire; we’re unwrapping some of the most cheerful Christmas traditions at colleges and universities across the United States.

From twinkling lights and sleigh rides to concerts that jingle all the way, we’re sharing traditions that prove that there is a space where academia meets the spirit of the season. Get ready to unwrap the magic of the most delightfully distinct college campus Christmas traditions!

From the radiant glow of Notre Dame to the Scarlet and White festivities at Villanova, these universities each offer a unique and enchanting experience during the Christmas season. Whether it’s the grand traditions, community spirit, or the magical glow of lights, these college campuses embrace the joy of this holiday season.

building with Christmas decorations

The Importance of Christmas Traditions at Christian Colleges and Universities

Christmas is one of the most important celebrations in the Christian faith. The holiday is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, so celebrating Christmas on Christian and Catholic campuses becomes especially important to students, professors, and the surrounding community.

Campus traditions at Christian colleges not only draw the student body together into a corporate worship experience, but they also strengthens the campus culture and the community at large. But it’s important to note that even secular colleges and universities embrace holiday traditions for the benefits of community building and student engagement.

Colleges with the Most Cheerful Christmas Traditions

Our look at the most cheerful Christmas celebrations on college campuses in the US were ranked according to the following criteria:

  • The number of days that Christmas events are offered
  • The amount of time the Christmas tradition has been celebrated
  • The amount of student involvement
  • The amount of community engagement

You might also be interested in our ranking of best Halloween campus traditions or colleges with the most beautiful campuses.

  1. 1

    Seton Hall University: Christmas at the Hall

    Seton Hall University is one of the cheeriest colleges in the US. The holiday festivities kick off right after Thanksgiving with a special mass and the grand Tree Lighting Ceremony. Then in the weeks leading up to winter break, there are musical performances, carol-singing, university Christmas parties, and even a pancake breakfast with Santa.

    There are also opportunities for students to participate in several service projects, including a toy drive, and a letter-writing campaign and jewelry-making party to benefit kids in the local Children’s Hospital.

    And to up the fun factor even more, the university has designed personalized Seton Hall coloring pages for students to download and developed an official Christmas playlist, perfect for sipping hot cocoa while curling up on the couch.

  2. 2

    The University of Notre Dame: A Radiant Glow on the Golden Dome

    The University of Notre Dame is tops among the cheeriest college campuses this holiday season. The great transformation from a regular ol’ campus to a winter wonderland begins right after Thanksgiving so that students and staff have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities before winter break.

    One of the most anticipated events kicks off the first Friday in December with “A Carroll Christmas.” The event, which began in 1989, includes horse-drawn carriage rides, the lighting of the giant Christmas tree, and visits with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves.

    The residence halls on campus also go all-in, participating in Christmas tree decorating competitions, a Christmas pageant, and candlelit advent masses.

    Holiday service projects are popular on campus as well. The Fighting Irish athletics programs team up with the South Bend Community School Corp to help families put food on the table and presents under the tree. Fans even participate in a “Teddy Bear Toss,” which benefits Toys for Tots.

  3. Christmas decorations outside
  4. 3

    Baylor University: Twinkling Lights and Texas-Sized Celebrations

    Baylor University takes Christmas cheer seriously. Not only do the faculty, staff, and students write their own devotional for the Advent season, but the School of Music hosts a number of Christmas concerts across the campus to help get students in a festive mood.

    The highlight of the Christmas season kicks off each year with a Texas-sized celebration dubbed “Christmas on 5th Street,” an event that transforms the Baylor campus into a winter wonderland. Students and locals alike enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, food trucks, a Christmas market, a live nativity, a historic village to stroll through, and of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus.

    The festivities embrace the holiday spirit with a southern flair, drawing families from all over Waco with bounce houses, train rides, and performances especially for children.

  5. 4

    Villanova University: Scarlet and White Christmas Glow

    The official start of the holiday season at Villanova kicks off with the University Christmas Tree Lighting. The annual community event includes musical performances, a holiday light show, firepits — complete with s’mores — and a special visit from Santa.

    The holiday festivities continue with Christmas concerts and performances, and conclude with the annual Holiday Village and Night Market, which features carriage rides, food trucks, local vendors, photo ops, and more.

  6. Christmas orchestra
  7. 5

    Brigham Young University: A Luminous Journey Through the Festival of Lights

    Brigham Young University fully embraces the holidays with festive activities and concerts that make Christmas at BYU a season of joy and celebration. Even better, many of the events are free for both students and the community at large! Of course, there are musical recitals and concerts that include everything from jazz ensembles to traditional choirs, but there are some unexpected surprises like harp ensembles, and even a concert featuring tuba players.

    But the holiday fun doesn’t stop there. Throughout the first two weeks of December, there are also exhibits showcasing pioneer Christmas stories, Christmas classic movies, and even a planetarium show.

  8. 6

    High Point University: Sparkling Lights and Warm Wishes

    High Point University turns into a festive haven during the holiday season, with the campus (literally) aglow in sparkling lights. The school has a calendar of events that is jam-packed with concerts, a nativity scene, and an ice-skating rink.

    But one of the most popular holiday events on campus is the High Point University Christmas Drive Thru. High Point comes alive during the holiday season. Each evening, the school welcomes families to drive through the campus where they can view more than 100,000 Christmas lights, 235 nutcrackers, and a campus that many consider to be one of the most beautiful in America fully decked out for the holidays.

  9. Christmas decorations
  10. 7

    Texas Tech University: Red Raider Revelry in a Winter Wonderland

    Texas Tech University dives headfirst into the holiday spirit with their Carol of Lights celebration. The event, which has been happening since 1959, has grown in popularity and is now attended by over 20,000 students and locals from Lubbock and beyond.

    The Carol of Lights features a 38-foot-tall Christmas tree, a 20-foot wreath, 3,000 luminaries, and 25,000 lights. The event offers a Texas-sized dose of cheer, and has become a holiday destination for residents of Lubbock and beyond.

    2022’s Carol of Lights was the official kick-off to Texas Tech’s Centennial Celebration, and was especially spectacular, with live entertainment and a fireworks display. But the university plans an even grander celebration for 2023, adding a drone show to the finale.

  11. 8

    Lipscomb University: A Radiant Green Glow in Music City

    Lipscomb University hosts their annual free Lighting of the Green Christmas concert with Christian singer Amy Grant. The concert has become a cherished experience for students and Nashvillians alike.

    Festivities also include pictures with Santa, and a holiday market that benefits the Associated Women for Lipscomb scholarship fund, and free pictures with Santa. The evening concludes with a tree lighting ceremony.

  12. Christmas decorations on a street
  13. 9

    St. Olaf College: Lighting the Way in a Nordic Wonderland

    St. Olaf College, nestled in the enchanting landscape of Minnesota, hosts one of the oldest musical celebrations in the United States, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival. The annual event is live streamed and is attended by more than 7,000 guests each year. Over 500 student musicians participate in the festival, with five choirs and an orchestra.

    St. Olaf’s Christmas Festival is a heartwarming journey into the spirit of the season.

  14. 10

    St. Mary’s University: Sparkling Lights and San Antonio Charm

    Despite the fact that St. Mary’s University is located in San Antonio Texas, a city that rarely gets snow, the school knows how to embrace Christmas and transform the campus into a snowy winter wonderland.

    Each year the school hosts a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Alumni Christmas Social. The school transforms an area on the campus with four inches of machine-made snow for students and families to play in. There are also pictures with Santa and a toy drive to benefit local families.

  15. 11

    University of Dayton: A Flyer's Wonderland of Lights

    UD Flyer spirit combines with holiday magic in the university’s annual Christmas On Campus event. The celebration isn’t just for students and faculty, but also for local children.

    During the event, which begins with a tree lighting ceremony and concludes with mass, UD students are paired up with 1000 local children from the Dayton area who may not otherwise get to celebrate Christmas. Christmas On Campus is such a beloved tradition that University of Dayton alumni from around the world continue to participate in “Christmas Off Campus” events in their own communities.

  16. 12

    Taylor University: Celebration in Silence

    In neighboring Indiana, students participate in a unique tradition that has been dubbed “Silent Night.” On the Friday before finals week, students, alumni, and Taylor fans don costumes of all kinds to attend a basketball game.

    The crowd remains completely silent until the Taylor Trojans score their 10th point of the game, at which time the fans erupt in a merry celebration of chaotic jubilation. At the end of the game, all the students sing Silent Night in unison and then head off to a Christmas party thrown by the university.

    Taylor has won every game except one since Silent Night began in 1997. In 2018, the team lost by two points to Grace Christian, but the loss didn’t dampen the spirits of the students or lessen the sheer frenzy of this jolly tradition.

Student Submitted Questions about Christmas Traditions on College Campuses

We discussed the topic of Christmas traditions with current college students to see what questions they had. Below you’ll find these questions and our answers to them provided by our editor, Jenn Fenley. If you have questions of your own, you can submit your question using the form below and we’ll answer it right here in this article!

April asked, “Are there any surprising or particularly creative Christmas traditions that you’ve come across?”

There are certainly a number of colleges in the US that put their own twist on holiday celebrations. Several of the schools in this article certainly put their own unique stamp on their Christmas traditions.

St. Mary’s University trucks in enough man-made snow to transform their Pecan Grove into a winter wonderland. Brigham Young hosts an all-tuba Christmas concert. And the Teddy Bear Toss at the University of Notre Dame is a fun and unique way to get sports fans involved in a great charity event.

John asked, “Which colleges have the most elaborate festive decorations and dazzling Christmas lights?”

If you’re in the mood for some winter wonderland vibes on a college campus, High Point University wins the prize for the most lights and decorations. The entire campus is decked out with more than 100,000 lights and 235 nutcrackers. But Seton Hall is definitely one of the most spectacular holiday displays, as even the students compete in Christmas tree decorating contests in the residence halls. The whole campus is transformed.

John also asked, “Do students need to be Christian to participate in College Campus Christmas traditions?”

Absolutely not! While Christmas traditions originate from Christian traditions, it is a holiday meant to be enjoyed by all. The college campus traditions we have ranked above are open to all students of all belief-systems.

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