The St. Paul campus' Christmas tree-lighting ceremony is a St. Thomas tradition.

The St. Paul campus' Christmas tree-lighting ceremony is a St. Thomas tradition.

Join the University of St. Thomas community for its 13th annual Christmas tree- and crèche-lighting ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 1.  

The event also will feature music and readings to herald the holiday season, as well as hot chocolate and cookies. The outdoor ceremony begins at 4:30 p.m. near the St. Paul campus’ landmark Summit Avenue Arches. The public is welcome.

Thousands of outdoor Christmas lights again will brighten the St. Paul campus this year. The Nativity scene atop the university’s Summit Avenue arches has a history spanning more than 50 years. The present scene with lighted statues is a relatively recent acquisition compared to the tradition of a Christmas crèche on campus.

As long ago as 1948, campus clubs erected an outdoor Nativity scene for public enjoyment. About that time, Dr. Hugo Reny, a Vienna-born assistant professor of psychology, fashioned flat, hand-painted, plywood figures that were once displayed on the quad.

In 1950, a log-wall stage some eight feet high and five feet wide was constructed for the scene, which then was displayed on the veranda of Aquinas Hall. That display has since been replaced with more elaborate and lighted statues, and the Physical Plant staff erects the crèche where the entire community can see and enjoy it: on top of the landmark Arches.