Sr. Anne Marie Burton
Many traditions began in the early days of Immaculata College – several of which continue to the present time. Unique above all other traditions is Carol Night. The first Carol Night, celebrated on December 21, 1914, was very informal. In the beginning days of Villa Maria Academy it was a simple get-together with the suggestion: “Let’s light those bayberry candles and sing”. At that time, the students followed the custom of closing Christmastide with removing the Christ-figure from the manger after a ceremonial procession to the rotunda where everyone took a straw from the crib and sang one last carol.
Later, the college celebrated Carol Night in a more formal manner. On December 8th, after the close of the Forty Hours devotion, the members of the freshman class were presented with lanterns which had stained glass panels signifying their class colors. Following the presentation, the students arrayed in caps and gowns, carried the lighted lanterns glowing with their class colors and processed to the Rotunda. All was in darkness with the exception of the upraised lanterns in the hands of each student. The singing of the Alma Mater followed by the hymn Immaculata Conceptio concluded the evening (College Journal, January, 1929).
In the early days of the college Carol Night was usually held the night before the students left campus for the holidays. The members of the Senior Class gathered in the Green Room by the light of the bayberry candles. When the school orchestra played the beginning notes of Deck the Halls, underclassmen gathered in the Rotunda on the two upper floors, their lanterns shining like jewels. The seniors came from the Green Room, taking their places around the tree in the Rotunda. Through an arch of seniors, the Christ Child was carried by a Guard of Honor and placed reverently on the bed of straw. After singing several more Christmas carols, the students processed to the Chapel where the College Chaplain gave a traditional Christmas message and blessing. (Esprit de Corps, 1945).
This best loved tradition continues today when students gather in the Rotunda where a beautifully decorated tree reaching to the second floor keeps watch over the manger. Trustees, faculty, administration, alumni, parents, and friends join the students in the singing of carols. Led by the Immaculata Chorale, the program includes both old and new Christmas music to set the tone for the evening. Senior members of Chorale have the privilege of singing O Holy Night. Five seniors carry in the statue of the Infant Jesus and one has the honor of placing the Christ Child in the manger. At the closing of the program all lights are dimmed for Silent Night sung by candelight. The program concludes with Joy to the World in the full brilliance of restored light. (Esprit de Corps, 2000).