Students dressed in elf costumes sang with audience members wearing Santa hats as more than 14,000 luminarias illuminated campus Friday night.

Hundreds of people attended UNM’s annual Hanging of the Greens, which was organized by the UNM chapter of the Mortar Board Senior Honor Society.

Mortar Board President Meena Lee said the group started organizing the event at the beginning of the semester and worked with other student organizations, such as Phi Eta Sigma and Associated Students of the University of New Mexico Lobo Spirit, to fund the event. She said the event, which was started in the 1930s by for­mer UNM stu­dent and UNM Dean of Women Lena C. Clauve, is a tradition that unites the University community.

“It brings people together,” she said. “You see how many people there are. It’s such an old tradition and it makes UNM truly unique.”

Lee said that in the past, UNM students went to the mountains to collect greens, decorated them and then put them all over the University. But she said that to make the event easier, students now only present the UNM president with a wreath, which is then hung in front of University House.

The event began Friday with people caroling in front of the UNM Bookstore. The crowd made several stops on campus on the way to University House, and sang holiday songs at each stop. At the end of the procession, Lee presented the wreath to UNM President Robert Frank.

Frank said it was the first time he had ever witnessed the Hanging of the Greens. He said because many student organizations were involved in beautifying the campus, the event makes students feel that they are a member of the campus community.

“It gives the campus a real magical feel,” he said. “This is the kind of tradition that makes a campus come together and makes students feel that they’re part of a generation and they have a legacy.”

Frank said UNM traditions like the Hanging of the Greens make the campus unique, and attract prospective students as a result. He said UNM should have more traditions like it.

“Any type of tradition that defines us and makes us unique eventually brings in more students,” he said. “If we have two or three more traditions like this, that is what … will make us a special place.”

ASUNM President Caroline Muraida said that although the event has always been popular with the Albuquerque community, this year’s turnout was larger than usual.

“Every year we have a great turnout, but this year, it’s just unbelievable,” she said. “And it’s really an exciting time because we’re welcoming President Frank back to our campus.”

Muraida said the event not only reflects the unity of the UNM community, but also the state’s holiday spirit.

“It’s a testament to our New Mexican culture and how much we enjoy coming together,” she said. “It’s something that we really should be proud of and grateful for.”