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The Illumination Ceremonies are a longstanding and beloved Tufts tradition that take place on the first night of Orientation and on the eve of Commencement. According to legend, when Charles Tufts donated the land for the university to be built upon, he said he would put “a light on that hill.” Through this metaphor, we remind ourselves of our responsibility as a community to seek knowledge and to partner with communities and the world beyond to promote peace.

On the first night of Orientation, new first year and transfer students gather on the President’s Lawn beneath Goddard Chapel for a ritual that involves words of welcome, reflections by students on the heritage and values of Tufts, and musical performances. Then approximately 1,600 entering students, faculty, and staff light the candles of the people around them. The candlelight slowly progresses up the hill until the whole hillside is lit. On the eve of Commencement, the class gathers again to repeat this ritual and to place “a light on the hill” before venturing out into the world.


Welcoming the incoming Tufts class, returning students who are connected with interfaith life at Tufts offered reflections on the themes of light in their traditions and cultures and on the Tufts values of service, self-care, and community. Their reflections can be found below:

September 1, 2018

Alumni Speaker: Sophia Estrada, A18

Eitan Bloostein, A19

Raveena Longja, A19

August 30, 2017

Alumni Speaker: Shreya Bhatia, A17

Miriam Israel, A18

August 31, 2016

Alumni Speaker: Abdurrahman Abdurob, A15

Eitan Bloostein, A19 

Palak Khanna, A18

Marina Rakhilin, A17