Light the Way: A Family Tradition

November 18, 2021

Julianne Salame has been attending Light the Way for years. Although her view of it has broadened since becoming a student who helps plan the event, it’s still the start of the holiday season for her family.

Julianne Salame poses during the 2020 drive thru Light the WayFor Julianne Salame, a Communication Arts graduate student, Light the Way has been part of her family’s holiday experience since 2005, when she was just six years old.

“I feel like this tradition has become such a huge part of my family," she explained.

That first Light the Way, which she attended with her sister, became one of many.

“It sort of became this unspoken tradition between my family,” said Salame. “We fell in love with the kickoff tradition of everything.”

Salame has vivid memories of the first time she attended the event.

“I remember that we walked through campus, and they gave everybody a candle,” she fondly recalls. “We lit them all at the same time, and the tradition was that you lit each other’s candles. It was so beautiful. The community was so tight-knit, and it was just a warm, heartfelt event. They had hot cocoa and I remember being super cold and just having a really great time.”

Those cold November evenings throughout her childhood solidified another decision for Salame. She knew that UIW, where she felt the community and love of family, was where she wanted to continue her education.

“Light the Way really impacted my decision to attend the University because I knew that those traditions Julianne Salame's family at Light the Way would continue not only in my family, but throughout UIW,” she said. “That really helped me decide that I wanted to stay close to home, closer to family and closer to the community.”

Once she began her freshman year at UIW, her experiences at Light the Way changed in some ways. She joined the Office of Communications and Brand Marketing, the office that oversees planning the annual event, as a student worker. Through that opportunity, her view of the event expanded. 

“It’s been eye-opening and exciting to see both sides of Light the Way, both as a guest and as someone helping to make the magic happen,” said Salame. “There’s the fun of the community, and also the behind-the-scenes craziness that comes from the preparation. I realized how much time goes into making sure that everybody has a great, enjoyable experience.”

Although she has a bigger view of UIW’s celebration under the lights, it is still a major event for her own family. Because of the scheduling challenges that come with having a large family, the Salames started celebrating Thanksgiving the week before the actual holiday.

“Light the Way was that marker of ‘we're going to go have Thanksgiving dinner in the morning and then at night, we're going to go to campus to celebrate the kickoff of the Christmas season.’ It has always been a really huge start of our holiday season as a family.

Julianne Salame smiles at the camera before the 2019 Light the ay“Everybody went from our dining room table to Light the Way, and it was this huge deal in my entire family, being together that night and having a really great time,” said Salame. “Over the course of college, now that I'm in graduate school, it's become this time-honored tradition that we look forward to every year.”

The event has evolved from when Salame first attended, and her family is busier now. But her favorite part about Light the Way, outside of seeing the community come together, is still the moment the lights are turned on.

“It's just very bright, very welcoming, and it symbolizes the entire community as a whole coming together, where the Christmas spirit is in the air on campus and around the city,” said Salame.

“I came to UIW because of the community and family atmosphere, and Light the Way is a huge display of that community. We have the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word who come, and it’s such a beautiful thing to see them all together. But Light the Way has become so much more than just the UIW community. It’s the kickoff to the holiday season. It’s family. It’s friends. It’s laughter. It’s a celebration.”

The 35th Annual Light the Way Holiday Festival takes place Saturday, Nov. 20 from 3 - 9:30 p.m. at the UIW Broadway campus. Learn more at the Light the Way website.