Here’s why Deck the Haven isn’t happening this year

Numerous functional and financial complications have plagued the Christmas celebration since 2017––but this year, the event finally caved.


Marlena Lang // THE CHIMES

Unlike previous years, Haven will have to wait to share their traditional Christmas festivities with the rest of the Biola community.

Micah Kim and Brittany Ung

(This story was originally published in print on Dec. 5, 2019).

Hart Hall’s decades-old Christmas tradition Deck the Haven has been canceled this year due to time pressures created by budget complications with the Student Government Association. The decision was made in mid-November by the event’s three organizers: sophomore engineering physics major Samuel Escue, junior cinema and media arts major Jonathon Gillespie and junior cinema and media arts major Jesse Creaseman, who is also the Hart senator.


Deck the Haven is a Christmas celebration organized by the residents of Haven, a floor in Hart Hall. The event began unofficially around the mid-90s and snowballed into an official event as the Biola community got more involved.

“It started just as a competition of, ‘I could put up more lights than you,’” Gillespie said.

In 2017, the event suffered from budget and logistics complications after a university rule was created that prevented events from being held on dorm floors. That year, Haven fought to bring the event back via a location change, which moved Deck the Haven to a tent at the parking lot next to Fluor Fountain. The celebration happened in the tent that year and the year afterward, but the price of the tent raised the cost of the celebration, taking up roughly one-third of the event’s budget each year, according to Escue. 


Haven usually seeks funding from SGA for the event, but this year, SGA’s budget faced significant shortfalls due to a miscommunication between SGA and the Office of Financial Aid. As a result, SGA had limited funding for initiatives around the time Deck the Haven would have been proposed in late October. In light of these constraints, the event organizers decided not to propose the event to SGA.

SGA’s budget was restored shortly afterward, but by that time, the three organizers had only a few weeks to plan for the event, instead of their usual three month runway. They approached Hart’s resident director, Natalie Landini, to find solutions. The four discussed options like holding the event outside the dorm or finding an empty classroom, but couldn’t find an alternative that would realistically preserve both the university’s standards and the spirit of the event. 

With December fast approaching, Deck the Haven was slowly running out of options and began to fizzle out―a slow burn, as Gillespie described it. Finally, two weeks before Thanksgiving, Creaseman, Gillespie and Escue made the decision to cancel Deck the Haven for 2019.

‘To have it not happen this year, having it gone [on] this long––on my watch personally––stings,’ Gillespie lamented.


Yet, the crew is channeling their disappointment into blueprints for Deck the Haven next year. The trio hopes the extended planning time will allow ample opportunity to resolve logistical difficulties in advance.

“One of the main things that we fell into this year was the lack of time to secure the locations,” Creaseman said. “I feel as if we had more time to secure the location―namely, a whole spring semester―it would be a lot easier to secure certain locations.”

The three are planning for next year’s Deck the Haven to be more outreach oriented, bringing Haven’s unique community to residents of not only Biola, but La Mirada as well.

“And so we are going to begin pursuing some of the locations we feel is best suited for the event and hopefully be able to come to agreements with whoever it may be so that we can have the event once again bless Biola community and La Mirada and Haven as just a side effect as well,” Creaseman said. 

Though the tradition has come to an end this year, the trio stand strong in their hopes for restoration.

“It sucks, but our message to Biola is, ‘Deck the Haven is not dead. At all,’” Gillespie said. “It’s coming back next year, better than ever. Stronger than ever. More community than ever.”

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