I love being asked about favorite UVA traditions and it happens pretty regularly. Most of the students with whom I interact already know the basics about UVA. They want to know some of the things that don't get written done or what doesn't come across in college guides and websites. I always wind up talking about student self-governance, the Hoo Crew and Marching Bands, the club fair, and the event that is happening tonight, the Lighting of the Lawn.
The Lighting of the Lawn started in 2001 as a way to bring the University together after a solemn fall semester. The tradition has continued and it marks our transition into reading days and final exams. Over the years, the event has become more elaborate, with students, faculty, facilities, and administration collaborating to make LOTL a special memory for all of us.
The Lighting of the Lawn starts around 7 PM with performances by several (dozens?) different choral and a capella groups. After the reading of a poem that greets each class and recaps the past year, there is a countdown to the "flipping of the switch." For the first time ever, you can watch the LOTL from home via a life stream. Check out the Lighting of the Lawn website for the link.
With scaffolding on the Rotunda due to a restoration project, the committee has been pretty creative in recent years. Some people didn't even think they'd get lights on the physical building.
2013 (here's a video from the students' perspective if you want to hear their reactions)
2014 (from the students' perspective)
I can't wait to see what the LOTL committee has planned for this year!