All are welcome to the 18th annual tree- and crèche-lighting ceremony that will begin at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, near the flag pole on the lower quadrangle of the University of St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus. It’s a Tommie Tradition that dates back to 1948.

Students warming up with hot chocolate at the tree-lighting ceremony six years ago.

Students warming up with hot chocolate at the tree-lighting ceremony six years ago.

In addition to the crèche, located atop the university’s landmark Summit Avenue Arches, the university is lighting a number of pine trees of various sizes on the campus’ lower quad and, for the third year, a 34-foot artificial tree in the atrium of the Anderson Student Center, which opened in January 2012. (You can see a time lapse of the first time the tree was assembled in 2012 here.)

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

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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