All are welcome to the 19th annual tree- and crèche-lighting ceremony that will begin at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, on the lower quadrangle of the University of St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus.

The annual ceremony also features Advent hymns performed by the St. Thomas Liturgical Choir, readings, hot chocolate and holiday cookies.

In addition to the crèche, located atop the university’s landmark Summit Avenue Arches, the university is lighting a number of pine trees and, for the fourth year, a 34-foot artificial tree in the atrium of the Anderson Student Center, which opened in January 2012. That tree can be seen from both inside and outside the building. (You can see a terrific video of how they build the tree each year here.)

Dan Hoffmann, electrical foreman, reports that between 3,000 and 3,500 lights will be installed on seven trees in the lower quad on the north campus and a large pine in front of Brady Educational Center on the south campus. Those lights, all LEDs, will be more whitish in color than last year’s ice-blue lights. In addition, nearly 4,500 lights will grace the 16 trees that are part of the crèche on the Arches.

St. Thomas has had outdoor Nativity scenes for more than seven decades. Campus clubs erected the first scenes in the 1940s. Later, Dr. Hugo Reny, a Vienna-born psychology professor, fashioned flat, hand-painted plywood figures that were displayed in the quadrangle.

In 1950, a log-wall stage – some 8 feet high – was built for the Nativity scene and installed on the Summit Avenue-facing veranda of Aquinas Hall. It later was replaced by the more elaborate and lighted statues that the university’s Physical Plant staff install each December on top of the Arches that link Aquinas Hall with the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts.

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