UM Christmas Tree Tradition Dates Back to 1860s

OXFORD, Miss. – Though the location and traditions surrounding the University of Mississippi Christmas tree have changed through the decades, one thing has remained the same. The tree was and continues to be a symbol of the bright futures ahead for the university’s students.

In the late 1860s, Memory House – now home of the University Foundation – held the first official Christmas tree lighting at Ole Miss, a tradition that continued several decades, said Dewey Knight, associate director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience and a UM alumnus.

The modern tradition of lighting the designated Ole Miss Christmas tree on the Circle began in 2000 as a way to connect Oxford and the university during the holiday season. That year, the tree held a light for every student enrolled, and the university continued that tradition until 2007, when the tree caught fire due to dry conditions and an overload of lights. The tree had been donated by the Ole Miss Class of 1997 and included a plaque of dedication at its base, said Bradley Baker, director of the Ole Miss Student Union.

The new tree is a Leland cypress from Shade Tree Transplanting Co. in Banner.

At a the recent lighting ceremony, Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs, commented that while the tree may not have a light for each of the nearly 20,000 students, the light it brings to campus during the Christmas season is a symbol of the bright futures Ole Miss students can achieve.