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The Illumination Ceremonies are a longstanding and beloved Tufts tradition that take place in the first weeks of new student Orientation and again 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.” By lighting candles during Illumination, we remind ourselves of our responsibility as a community to seek knowledge and to partner with communities and the world beyond to promote peace.

The tradition of Illumination continued this year virtually for incoming first years and transfer students on Sunday, October 4th at 8pm ET. The event was livestreamed for the first time ever. You are invited to watch this short video to find out more about the tradition of Illumination. You can also watch the recording of the 2020 ceremony below, and experience two student reflections. You can find all videos, with captioning, on our YouTube channel. There is more information about the history of the ceremony below, too.

View the recorded 2020 Illumination Ceremony below.

2020 Student Reflections

Two students reflect on their Illumination Ceremonies, and share words of welcome to new Jumbos.

Jiamin Li, A22

Sid Anand, A21

History of the Illumination Ceremony

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Usually on the first night of Orientation, 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.

Returning students who are connected with the University Chaplaincy offer reflections on the themes of light in their traditions and cultures, and on the Tufts values of service, self-care, and community. Past 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