Lander University’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration is a fun-filled night for the whole family. From roasting marshmallows and riding in a horse-drawn carriage, to taking a photo with Santa and riding a Ferris wheel, the event has quickly grown into one of Lander’s most popular traditions.

As temperatures drop and the holiday season fast approaches, Lander University is getting into the Christmas spirit, with several activities planned for students and the Greenwood community.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, the festivities will begin with the school’s third annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration. According to Demario Watts, director of student activities, the event has become one of the most popular on-campus traditions for Lander students. “It’s a different atmosphere,” said Watts, noting the excitement the event brings to the campus.

While at the Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration, those in attendance can expect to enjoy treats and entertainment, as well as what Watts called a “giant snow globe.” He added that a Ferris wheel will be present. There will be an opportunity to participate in an ugly sweater contest scheduled for 6 p.m. University President Richard Cosentino will light the tree, which will be at 6 p.m. Following performances of several groups throughout the celebration, the University Singers will close out the event with an 8 p.m. concert in the Josephine B. Abney Cultural Center.

Another holiday tradition returning to Lander this year is the longtime service of “Tommy Claus.” Each year, Tommy Tumblin leads efforts through the university to collect toys to donate to area children in need.

The school is “very appreciative of Tommy,” said Emily Weeks, assistant director of student activities and Greek Life. Weeks said the Tommy Claus tradition is an opportunity for the school to serve the greater Greenwood community, with “acts of service” emphasized among the philanthropy of the university.

To begin this season’s collection of toys for the Tommy Claus donation, attendees of the Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration are encouraged to participate. While not a requirement, Watts said that Lander is encouraging those in attendance to bring donations of unwrapped hard toys to the celebration. The tradition of Tommy Claus is a “great opportunity for us to be able to serve someone else,” Watts said.

Lander also has some activities planned exclusively for students, which is intended to lighten the mood during final exams. One of these events will be a presentation of the movie “Elf” by Lander UPC. Weeks considered these events during the holiday season as a way for students to connect with one another on campus, calling it a “good time for students to spend time with one another.”

Watts and Weeks are in their first semester of employment in Lander’s student activities and are excited to see these holiday traditions. Weeks said the planning and coordination the school puts into the tree lighting in particular, and how it has grown into one of the more highly anticipated events each year. Watts is excited to see the efforts of the school come to fruition for students and guests on Tuesday, saying it will be “really cool to see it all come together.”