During the late nights of semesters end, multitudes of students pass through Boatwright Memorial Library during what always seems to be a turbulent finals season. They heave backpacks filled with textbooks, final papers and take-home exams and carry water, coffee, Yerba Mate or some other sort of sugary, caffeinated drink. 

As these students walk to and from the library, it is nearly impossible to ignore what hangs above: the bell tower’s illuminated holiday wreaths.

Students, staff members and faculty members appreciate the three holiday wreaths that annually hang from the library's bell tower during the holiday season. It has been a University of Richmond tradition since 1988, Chris Machalski, the university's electrician, said.

“The wreaths were actually made by facilities,” Machalski said. “They made the pipes, and draped them with steel. And then they [fabricated] garland onto it.” 

The current wreaths were built sometime between six and 10 years ago, Machalski estimated. There are 1,400 twinkling lights and 10 yards of 60-inch-wide red material on each wreath, according to University Facilities. 

Carlo Dellaverson

Robert Naracon, an university electrician, helps hang a wreath on Boatwright tower in 2005. Photo originally published in The Collegian in 2005

Scott McIntosh, a University Facilities employee, said it was nice to hear that people enjoyed the wreaths, but he said he wondered whether people preferred the wreaths’ bows to be on the top of the wreaths or on the bottom. December 2017 was the first year that University Facilities had hung the bows from the bottom, McIntosh said.

Louis Schwartz, the English department chair, said there was something holiday-esque about the wreaths. Schwartz said he had grown up the Northeast and had been raised in a Jewish household. He also attended public school for both high school and college, he said. 

When he came to Richmond in 1989, Schwartz said he had observed a cultural shift. Growing up in an area where there were both people celebrating and people not celebrating Christmas, he was unaccustomed to having Christmas decorations at school, he said. 

Schwartz said having wreaths hang from the tower was similar to going to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree in Manhattan, as he had done as a child. It is something beautiful and wonderful to look at, Schwartz said. 

The wreaths make campus a little more delightful during the end of the semester, he said. 

Olivia Diaz

December 2017 was the first year that University Facilities hung the bows from the bottom of the wreaths.

Junior Lina Tori Jan said the wreaths reminded her of the privilege she had in attending UR. 

“It is a reminder of Christmas and beauty of wintertime because back [in Afghanistan], we can’t celebrate Christmas,” Tori Jan said. “So for me, it is a reminder that I am in a country where the forbidden is allowed to be expressed. Every time I see it passing by, I really enjoy it.”

Senior Morgan Soulia said the wreaths kept her spirits up during finals, because she knew the holidays were near.

“I really like it, because it is a sense of home,” Soulia said. 

Sophomore Miranda Thompson also said she appreciated the wreaths for calming her down as she studied.

“When it is snowing, I love looking up and seeing pretty lights,” Thompson said. “It helps me relieve my stress. They are there, effervescent, despite everything else that is going on.” 

Contact news writer Olivia Diaz at olivia.diaz@richmond.edu.