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Festival of Light and Dark welcomes all

Photo by Lila Goehring

The Festival of Light and Dark (FOLD) is an annual Mills traditional that occurs near the end of the fall semester. This year, it will be on Dec. 10.

The festival is a place for everyone to come together, regardless of religious or spiritual identity. It is a chance for different religious and spiritual groups on-campus to share what this time of year means to them—it is a time of many holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa; it is a time to think about loved ones and find calmness. 

Additionally, FOLD occurs during a time of light and dark. The recent time change means that the days are shorter and that there is more dark than light.

Junior Anneke Moser has attended FOLD in the past and plans to be involved this year as well. She has been involved in Spiritual and Religious Life (SRL) events during most of her time at Mills.

“The holiday season means a lot of different things for a lot of different people,” she said.“Maybe they want to get home to see their family or maybe they’re dreading it.”

Either way, Moser said, this event can serve as a last hurrah for students and a time to say, “We’re here, we’re a community.”

FOLD is open to people of all ages and beliefs to come together. Before the all-ages program with music and presentations starts in the evening, there are activities and events for children. 

“I liked seeing them involved—drawing, getting read to, reading,” Moser said, referencing last year’s event.

FOLD is also a time when different religious or spiritual groups have the chance to present through a contribution to the program, whether that be a prayer, informative talk, song or something more unique to them. Last year, Moser led the attendees (about 30–40 people, she recalls) in a guided meditation, which she may contribute again this year.

Senior Melissa Berkay attended FOLD in 2016 and is volunteering this year to help with the children’s activities. She recalls the event being a good experience in the past.

“It was nice, everybody was centered and I feel like the event helped students get through at least midterms and finals coming up,” she said. “It was a nice celebration that really helped students calm down.”

Sophomore Alana Halstead, who has been involved in SRL during her time at Mills recalled the event last year as one of her favorites.

“I remember it was really calming, especially because it was during finals season. Everything’s stressful and then you go and the chapel has this really calming energy,” Halstead said.

Although it is one of the largest and most well known events that SRL hosts, FOLD is just one of many events put on by them each year. For those working on spiritual health, the chapel is open for students of any faith. 

“It’s a non-denominational chapel, so it’s a space for everyone,” Moser said.

Moser also enjoys the community she has come to know through SRL.

“It’s an assortment of people of all different religious backgrounds and spiritual identities,” she said, “Everyone is super friendly to each other—good friends and able to just chat and hang out, and I really value that.”

Halstead also values spiritual health year round and the time she has spent in the chapel.

“I really try to make time for the SRL events,” she said, “For me personally, spiritual health is very important—a lot of that comes from my meditation class.”

The meditation class, which is held every week this semester, is cataloged as a part of the Physical Education Department. 

“I will definitely miss that in the future,” Halstead said, calling the class “amazing.” 

The meditation class was led by Reverend Dara Olandt, the chaplain of Mills College. Rev. Olandt is also a Unitarian Universalist minister. She runs the department of SRL, and many students credit her with creating an environment where students of any faith feel welcomed and heard. 

“She makes room for all of these events,” Halstead said of Rev. Olandt. “This school doesn’t have a huge religious community, but I really appreciate the effort that Dara puts in to incorporate everyone’s own faith.”

Moser was also a part of the meditation class this semester and appreciates the work done by Rev. Olandt.

“The space that Dara holds—I never feel bad for my commitment level, I never feel isolated because of my background or anything, even by anyone else there, whenever I go to SRL meetings or FOLD,” Moser said.

Berkay also appreciates this approach of inclusion.

“I really just like the idea of interfaith [activities] and having all the different groups on-campus share what they value with each other because it creates a lot of peace and community on-campus,” she said. “I really wish that that was something that all college campuses did but I think Mills is really good at that; I think having everybody get along is important.”

FOLD will occur on Dec. 10. in the chapel from 4–6 p.m., and all are welcome to attend.

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