Students celebrate 101st Lantern Night with an outdoor celebration

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Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer

First-year and second-year women attended Pitt’s 101st annual Lantern Night on the Cathedral Lawn Sunday night, receiving the “light of learning” from Pitt alumni.

By Suln Yun, Staff Writer

Students carried glowing lanterns across the Cathedral Lawn — lighting up the starry night sky overhead.

The 101st Lantern Night took place Sunday night and was open to all first-year and sophomore students. While the event typically takes place in Heinz Chapel, this year it took place on the Cathedral Lawn and lasted about 30 minutes. 

Photos: Lantern Night 

This is different from last year when students celebrated Lantern Night with LED candles in their dorm windows due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pitt started Lantern Night in 1920 in honor of Pitt’s first female students — Margaret and Stella Stein, according to Nancy Merritt, vice chancellor for Alumni Relations

While it might be the University’s oldest tradition, this doesn’t mean that some parts of it can’t change. Merritt said this year the Alumni Association invited all first and second-year students to join the event, not just female students, so that everyone could experience the feeling of community which is the purpose of the tradition. 

Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer

In addition, Merritt said the team changed how students received the lights during the event to allow for more social distancing. Mothers and family members who typically attend the event in-person with their daughters watched virtually via a livestream link as well.

“This year, to accommodate more students and allow proper social distancing, we’ll be using LED technology to light the candles in unison,” Merritt said. “We think the effect is going to be beautiful.”

Alumni Association Board President Valerie Njie welcomed the thousands of first-year and sophomore students that attended Lantern Night to the Pitt community by highlighting the importance of the tradition. 

“I have participated in many of these events, but each one is so special. I have no doubt that you will feel the same,” Njie said. “The light of learning doesn’t just symbolize the passing of knowledge. It represents our ongoing support of you. And we want you to know that we are ecstatic to join you in the Pitt community.”

Neha Devinenj, a first-year biology major, said she thought the event was a success. 

“When I entered the check-in line for the Lantern Night event, I got through the line pretty quickly and I can see the stage pretty well so I think it is set pretty well,” Devinenj said.

Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer

Emma Knutty, a sophomore anthropology major, said she was excited to attend the event in person after not being able to experience it last year. 

The event was a great experience to witness and you could really feel the spirit of the University through the lighting of the lanterns,” Knutty said. “I was surprised at how quickly we got through the event but it met most of my expectations. I was not able to experience last year or the previous year so I did not notice a significant change.

Knutty said she was confused about the Lantern Night at first but she started to understand more how this is an exciting tradition at Pitt after checking Pitt’s website and social media. 

“At first, I was a little confused on what the event was about, but my RA last year was able to explain to me how special Lantern Night is to the University,” Knutty said.

However, not all of the attendees treated the event as a special occasion. Kate Knox, a first-year biological sciences major, said some students were talking during the entire event, and she said a group of students near her purposefully stomped on a lantern. Knox said she wished there was more information given about Lantern Night to help showcase its importance. 

“The provided information about the proceedings of the event was vague, and I feel as though if the participants better understood the event’s history, they may have been more respectful towards it,” Knox said.

Still, Knox said she enjoyed the event and that it was meaningful to her.

The event was much shorter than I had expected, but it was also much more moving than I had expected,” Knox said. “Seeing the alumni pass on the light of learning brought about a certain sense of unity that has been especially hard to come by ever since the pandemic hit.

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