A Christmas Tradition Rooted in Community

Posted by Sheryl on December 16, 2015 10:02 AM

Each December, Marywood students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community fill the Rotunda for a decades-old tradition: the lighting of a giant Christmas tree.

The Tradition Begins

When Marywood was founded in 1915, the Motherhouse stood prominently at the center of campus. In addition to housing Marywood’s first students and faculty, the Motherhouse was home to Marywood Seminary, a high school for girls. Tragically, the Motherhouse caught fire and burned to the ground in 1971.

Later that year, as Christmas approached, the Marywood community decorated a live evergreen tree that was growing behind where the Motherhouse once stood. For several years, near the site of what is now the Motherhouse and Seminary Morgan Memorial Garden, the same tree was strewn with lights each holiday season.


A New Home for the Christmas Tree

In 1982, the tree was moved indoors to the Rotunda. At first, the Christmas tree was selected from among the many evergreens on campus. That practice was later abandoned in order to preserve Marywood’s natural beauty and designation as a national arboretum. Since then, Marywood has obtained trees that are commercially grown and harvested specifically for holiday celebrations.

Each year, the hardworking men and women of Marywood’s buildings and grounds department set up the mammoth tree. At 20 feet tall, it takes 3,200 energy-conserving LED lights to decorate the tree. These LED lights consume 80 percent less electricity than traditional lights.


Building Community

A few weeks before Christmas, the Marywood community gathers around the tree as it is lit for the first time. The ceremony is accompanied by prayer, ornament presentations, refreshments, and a festive performance by Marywood’s talented Chamber Singers.

Marywood’s annual Christmas tree lighting is a tradition that’s eagerly anticipated by students and fondly remembered by alumni both young and old. It’s also a reminder that Marywood University is more than just a collection of buildings on a scenic hillside. It is a community of people who cherish their shared history while they look forward to a bright future.

Topics: Catholic

Posted by Sheryl Lynn Sochoka

Sheryl Lynn is the Publications Director at Marywood University. A proud Marywood graduate and IHM Associate, she is greatly interested in the history of Marywood and of the IHM Sisters. When she's not online, she enjoys cooking, volunteering, being a Marching Band Mom, and waving her Terrible Towel for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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