The end of the fall semester brings two important seasons to any Loyola student. These are final exams and Advent/Christmas.
Christmas is my favorite time of year. It involves Gathering and celebrating with family and friends in sharing delicious meals, drinks, and conversation. The colorful decorations and lights make our home warm and inviting during the dark, cold days of December. The meaning of the season is special with celebrating Advent in anticipation of Jesus’ birth. I find the scripture readings used during the Advent season speak to me deeply in my relationship with God.
Loyola University Campus Ministry annually commemorates the Advent season with a spiritual program known as Lessons and Carols. This ecumenical service is rooted in the great English choral tradition, combining music and scripture readings of the Advent Christmas Season in a beautiful candle-lit setting of the Alumni Chapel.
During the service, gifts are presented from the Loyola community to representatives of local agencies to be distributed to children in the Baltimore area. This is referred to as “Presence for Christmas” a service project sponsored by Loyola’s Center for Community, Service, and Justice. This is a beautiful way to kick off the season peacefully and full of gratitude. Admission is free or you may join virtually as the performance is streamed live.
There are other sites and sounds that contribute to our annual celebration of Christmas. These include visiting the Christmas light display at the Washington Monument in Downtown Baltimore also known as the Mount Vernon neighborhood. Since 1971, the city has held the annual “Lighting of the Washington Monument” during the first Thursday in December. Typically, the mayor and his or her family flips the switch for the lights, followed by fireworks show.
Climbing the 227 steps to the top of the monument provides a view of the city from the historic neighborhood where it is located. Its neighbors and cultural institutions within a few blocks include the Peabody Institute, The Walters Art Museum, the Central Library of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Maryland Historical Society with its Enoch Pratt Mansion, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (old Baltimore Cathedral), and the Baltimore School for the Arts (public high school).
A really different Christmas experience can be found on 34th Street in the Hamden neighborhood. One city block of neighbors has annually lite up their street with a very kitsch-y celebration of the holidays. These include our family’s personal favorite, a Christmas tree build out of hubcaps. What started out as a tradition over 25 years ago is, now an expectation. When people purchase a home on this block, they sign a contract to decorate their home for the Christmas holidays. Everyone in Baltimore refers to this neighborhood as the “Miracle on 34th Street”.
On a personal note, Loyola holds a place in one of my most remembered holiday experience. We were married in Alumni Chapel very late in December underneath the Lessons and Carols Christmas tree. Surrounded only by our children and grandchildren we shared in the joy of faith and family that I hope you might experience in the Christmas season.