'Tis The Season At Notre Dame

Author: Scholastic Staff



Christmas trees have sprung up all around campus. Holiday songs play from dorm rooms and Christmas-themed events have become an almost daily occurrence. There may be no place like home for the holidays, but Notre Dame’s dorms, student groups, colleges and campus ministry do their best to bring holiday spirit to our home under the dome and beyond. Amidst last-minute paper writing as finals rapidly approach, a distinct feeling of joy and Christmas cheer envelops campus. Twinkling lights are draped across campus and Christmas carols ring. A merry holiday busyness sets in, with students running about attempting to balance academics with festivities, outreach opportunities and religious events.

What makes Christmas at Notre Dame? It is a combination of the generous desire to help those less fortunate, the wide range of religious and cultural events available to celebrate the season and the efforts of the dorms. Those endeavors contribute to a palpable feeling of joy, love and generosity that permeates all of campus and makes Christmas at Notre Dame truly special.

Outreach by Katie Harris

“Christmas is just — it’s the best time of year, and I think people truly want to soak that up and really want to give to others who may not have the opportunities that they have,” junior Adam Degand, president of Irish Fighting for St. Jude, says.

As president, Degand helped put on “Snapshots with Santa” on Dec. 3. The annual event takes place in LaFortune and raises money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Popular professors, including Anre Venter, Carl Ackermann and Mike Meyer, as well as Fr. Joe Corpora, took turns dressing up as Santa, and posed for pictures with students. A picture cost $3 and all proceeds went to St. Jude.  Irish Fighting for St. Jude also sold t-shirts and had a raffle as well as opportunities to donate in the name of a loved one at the event.

This year, through the support of professors, marketing through Facebook and posters, and what Degand calls “just harassing people in LaFun into coming to get their picture,” the group was able to raise $1,600 in revenue, more than doubling past years of $600-700 from the event. Degand gives large credit to the popular professors, who take time out of their busy schedules to support what they see as a great cause.

“Anre Venter just really marketed it to his students, so that was huge…he was 7:30 to 8:00,” Degand says, “and all of his students were there. It was a lot. It was crazy in LaFun.”

Across campus, giving during the holiday season is ubiquitous. Dorm events, such as Badin’s Conscious Christmas, Howard Halliday and PE’s Silent Night Silent Auction, support the Hope Initiative in Nepal, Catholic Charities and Hannah’s House, respectively. Many dorms and the marching band adopt a family. GlobeMed at Notre Dame had a Christmas sweater sale, all proceeds from which went to support its partner organization, Population Education Development Association (PEDA) in Laos. PEDA works to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS / STIs, malaria, tuberculosis, drug use and human trafficking. Dillon Hall introduced a new event this year called “Big RED, White and Blue Christmas,” where it put together Christmas care packages for soldiers overseas. The Aidan Project makes blankets for cancer patients. The list of initiatives to support others this Christmas goes on and on.

The reasons for giving vary from group to group. For junior Emily Leyden, holiday giving is to spread the happiness of Christmas that others may not be able to experience, due to other stressors.

“In general, I think that the holidays are a very happy time, but for people who don’t have the resources and don’t have the same abilities to make it a happy time, it’s a lot harder,” Leyden says. “From our perspective, bringing some of that Christmas cheer and helping out where we can to make it a little easier on them, to give them the opportunity to enjoy the holidays is really why it’s so special and why it’s so important and why we try, as a hall, to step it up during the holidays.”

Leyden is Ryan Hall’s Hannah’s House commissioner and organizes an annual holiday collection drive to support Ryan’s signature charity. Hannah’s House is an organization in South Bend that provides services to underprivileged families, specifically mothers.  For Leyden, Christmas is a time for giving, in general, to any worthy cause, but she especially finds value in Hannah’s House and the close relationship Ryan has developed with these families and mothers. Every other month, Ryan Hall attends Hannah’s House’s support meetings for mothers, serving the families meals, engaging with them and looking after their children while the mothers listen to different speakers.

“I think it’s good because we’re collecting items for a cause we help in a different way as well. I have formed relationships with people, who are actually the ones receiving the collection, and I think that’s special, like as our signature charity, to kind of build a relationship and serve them in different ways, to get like the whole picture,” Leyden says. 

Leyden also says that supporting Hannah’s House is important to Ryan Hall because it parallels the unofficial theme of Ryan Hall, as she sees it, of empowering women and lifting each other up.  Hannah’s House helps women, so they can help their families.

The College of Engineering peer mentors also host a collection drive that supports local charities. Tags decorate a Christmas tree in the College of Engineering, with specific gifts and necessities that local charity St. Margaret’s House needs for the holidays to support impoverished local women and children. The College does not have a relationship throughout the year with St. Margaret’s House but recognizes them as a worthy and relatively easy cause toward which to direct student, faculty and staff’s holiday generosity. It’s also nice to be able to see the impact you’re having, when you donate locally,” senior and peer mentor Brian Keene says.

The importance of giving, especially around the holidays, is partially a matter of inclusion according to Keene. “Everywhere you go, you’re going to see holiday and Christmas stuff. The kids are going to see it. The parents are going to see it too, but the kids are going to see it. And it’s an experience for them and the parents, but I think if you can’t participate in that fully you’re almost being left out of the culture,” Keene says.

For Degand and Irish Fighting for St. Jude, the holidays are certainly a time to give, but they aim to be generous and supportive of St. Jude and the children there year round. However, Degand recognizes the generous spirit of Christmas and how this is the season everyone thinks about giving.

“I think it’s great to have this event during this time because people are starting to think about … giving to others, when people really stress the importance of family,” Degand says. “To be honest, I think people are generally more generous during this time of year, so I think it’s definitely great to have an event like this during this time. So maybe they’ll open their wallets a little more and donate.”

Though not local, Degand’s support for St. Jude is rooted in a belief that it really is a great cause. Everyone has a soft spot for children, and everyone has been affected by cancer, he says, so why not try to make these children and their families’ lives a bit easier, especially around the holidays.

“We could raise money for something that 100 percent benefits us, and you know what, this doesn’t. And I think that’s even cooler. Christmas is a time of year everybody’s all happy and generous, so let’s help the people who are going through a bit of a rougher time than we are,” Degand says.

Amidst the chaos of papers, exams and projects the last few weeks of school, perhaps it’s remarkable the sheer number of outreach, service and fundraising efforts taking place in the spirit of giving back this Christmas season.

Both professors and students took time to support St. Jude. “That’s what I love,” Degand says. “Yes, everybody’s busy, everybody’s got classes, everybody’s got all their commitments, but what I love is the executive board, all the members — they took time out of their day to help a great cause.”

Leyden voiced a similar sentiment, also noting how just a small bit of your time and effort can make an incalculable difference. The items requested by Hannah’s House are basic: clothing, baby bottles, paper and pens, a can opener, etc., so a quick stop by the Huddle for pens is all you need to do to help out, Leyden says. The impact of a small action can be huge. The final support group meeting of the year at Hannah’s House is holiday themed, where mothers and their children receive gifts. Ryan Hall will try to attend, though it takes place mid finals week.

“It’s just two hours of our night every other month, but the overall impact is bigger than we can appraise,” Leyden says.

Assistant Rector of Ryan Hall Lillie Romeiser agrees. She is involved in Ryan’s Adopt a Family Program, which is aiming for full hall participation this year. She emphasizes the importance, despite all the busyness, of finding a way to contribute in whatever way you can. Her advice for the Christmas season: to keep things in perspective.

“While final exams and travel plans loom large, our own ‘success’ depends also on our consideration of others. Let’s come together…to prioritize doing good amidst this season of busyness,” Romeiser says.

“Giving and donating,” Keene says, “that’s really part of the spirit of the holiday.”

Religion by Maria Fahs

Advent Begins

Advent started Sunday, Nov. 29. While many students were still away celebrating Thanksgiving with their families, the Advent wreath in the Basilica was blessed at a vigil Mass and raised over the assembly. The wreath burns continuously throughout Advent, with a purple candle lit the first and second weeks of Advent, a pink candle lit the third week, and again a purple candle for the fourth Sunday.

“It hovers over the assembly, and shows how we are under the umbrella of the Advent season as we prepare for Christmas,” Basilica Rector Rev. Peter Rocca, C.S.C., says.

On the second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 6, the five Basilica choirs assembled to celebrate Advent Lessons and Carols in the Basilica. The Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, Women’s Liturgical Choir, Folk Choir, Handbell Choir and Basilica Schola all contributed their musical talents to the service, which Bishop Rhodes presided over.

“The service finds its origins in 19th century Anglican church. It entails readings and carols or hymns or motets or anthems which underscore the advent season,” Rocca says.

Jubilee Year of Mercy

This particular Church year is an especially important one for Catholics. On Dec. 8, Pope Francis inaugurated the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on the day of the Immaculate Conception. The celebration involved the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

On Dec. 9, local community and church leaders gathered for the Advent Ecumenical Prayer Service in the Lady Chapel of the Basilica. Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. presided and Pope Francis’ Bull Letter of Indiction, “Misericordiae Vultus,” announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy was read.

“The Jubilee year is an ancient Hebrew custom. It was considered a year of rest and restoration. A year when captives were set free, debts paid and land was not sown or harvested,” Rocca says.

“The first Christian Jubilee year dates from the year 1300, when Pope Boniface VIII convoked a holy year, following which ordinary jubilees have usually been celebrated every 25-50 years.”

“Then there are extraordinary jubilees which are for special occasions. Years like 1933, 1983 marking the 1900th and 1950th anniversaries of Christ’s death and ordination,” Rocca says.

Prior to this year’s Jubilee, the last ordinary Jubilee was celebrated in 2000 by Pope John Paul II to recognize the new millennium.

“Extraordinary Jubilees are invoked when there is a need for compassion and forgiveness within ourselves and the world at large,” Rocca says.

In Pope Francis’ Sept. 1, 2015 letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, he says, “I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence.”

“Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity,” Pope Francis says.

Dec. 13, the third Sunday of Advent, is Gaudete (Latin for “rejoice”). It is the day in Rome that Pope Francis opens all the Jubilee doors at the papal churches at the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. All the Holy Doors of churches with a designated Holy Door throughout the world open their doors.

In addition to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne and Saint Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, Bishop Rhodes has designated the Basilica of the Sacred Hearts as the third church to have a Holy Door in the diocese.

Hispanic Traditions

In addition to Advent services, there are also many other cultural traditions associated with Christmas in different parts of the world. For example, Las Posadas, (“lodging” in Spanish) a tradition mainly found in Mexico, was celebrated Dec. 1–3. It is a three night celebration, which reenacts Mary and Joseph trying to find room at the inn.

This year, students gathered for Las Posadas at the Grotto, where they sang and read scripture. After stopping at the dorm chapels of Fisher and Farley, a celebration was held afterwards in the Coleman-Morse Center.

“It’s a really fun time because it’s student driven. You’re doing things you would do with your family to make way for the coming of Christ, like cooking traditional foods. There are hundreds of people who attend the events, even at this point in the semester. They come together to celebrate Mary and everything Advent means,” Abby Salazar, assistant director of multi-cultural and graduate student ministry, says.

Las Mañanitas is another Hispanic tradition, which is popular in Mexico City. On the eve of Our Lady of Guadalupe, students, staff, faculty and community members will gather to say the rosary for Mary at 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 and sing Las Mañanitas, a birthday song. The event will be student-led and take place in the Coleman-Morse lounge.

The Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe will take place in the Basilica on Friday, Dec. 11 at 5:15 p.m. It is a bi-lingual Mass, with music provided by Notre Dame Folk Choir, Coro Primavera de Nuestra Senora, Mariachi ND and Ballet Folklorico. Fr. Jenkins will preside and Fr. David Scheidler, C.S.C., will preach. Music from Coro Primavera will begin at 5:00 p.m.

Every student will be given a rose for the procession. “It’s important that indigenous dances get incorporated into the Mass and that everyone has a rose because when Mary appeared to Juan Diego that’s what she presented to him,” Salazar says.

There will be reconciliation services in Spanish available this year during Advent. This is one of the first years in which confession is being offered in Spanish.

Other Faiths

During the Christmas season, it is easy to get caught up in the Catholic faith traditions and forget that other religions have holidays around this time of year.

For example, Diwali was celebrated on Nov. 11, which is a festival that coincides with the Hindu New Year.

“Diwali is basically a festival of lights, which is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. All three religions have some or the other reason to celebrate it. It … is a celebration of new beginnings and the triumph of Lord Rama over the demon Ravana, good over evil and light over darkness,” graduate engineering student Anshumaan Bajpai says.

Notre Dame has been celebrating Diwali for more than 10 years and set off fireworks for the occasion this year.

“One of the most basic traditions of this event is large amounts of firework displays, to remember the celebrations that took place when Lord Rama returned to his kingdom after defeating Ravana,” Bajpai says.

Bollywood music is played, sweet and savory dishes abound, and prayers are said.

“We pray for the peace in the world and wish good fortune to all the students in terms of their career, education and health,” Bajpai says.

Jewish students on campus began celebrating Hanukkah on Dec. 6 and will continue to do so until Dec. 14. Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and is celebrated by lighting a menorah to which an additional candle is added each day. It recalls the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days. Gifts are given during Hanukkah, and children often enjoy playing with dreidels while snacking on latkes (potato pancakes) and shamash (donuts).

Muslims will celebrate the birthday of their most venerated prophet, Muhammad, on Dec. 23, although his birthday is technically on the 16th Rabiul awal (the 16th day in the 3rd month of the Islamic calendar).

“Since Muslims come from very diverse cultural backgrounds, there is no one way we celebrate the day. Some common practices would be commemorating the stories of the prophet’s life and saying specific prayers for the prophet. Fasting is also observed for a day, and Muslim countries usually declare it as a national holiday,” senior theology and chemical engineering major Liyana Yusof says.

“Muslims from some countries would do poetry reading, wear colorful clothing and eat sweets as a mark of celebration,” Yusof says.

Despite the prominence of Christmas, many other faiths celebrate holidays around this time of year, although their major holidays usually occur at other times of the year.

Other Advent(ures)

Although most students head home for winter break, for any students staying in the area Notre Dame does a Thursday night Mass at Media Nocte (or midnight) on Christmas Eve. There is also a 5:00 p.m. vigil Mass attended by many families on Dec. 24. The proclamation from the Roman Martyrology and proclamation of the birth of Christ will be read, and there are readings and hymns before Mass.

“We have a beautiful creche scene that is placed in the Lady Chapel,” Fr. Rocca says. “Midnight Mass begins with four little children carrying in the Christ child up and down the aisles, to the back of the Lady Chapel, with eight to twelve torch bearers, during the martyrology.”

Christmas Day Mass is celebrated at 10:00 a.m. on Dec. 25. The Basilica will then close until Jan. 16, in order to remove the pipe organ in the choir loft to make room for the new one, which will be installed in August.

The crèche in the Basilica will be kept up until after Jan. 16, but in the meantime, Notre Dame is hosting its Second Annual International Crèche Display and Pilgrimage from now until Jan. 31. There are 33 crèches from 19 countries on display in the Morris Inn, the Eck Visitor’s Center, McKenna Hall, Hesburgh Library and Main Building. Each display is accompanied by a small description about where the crèche is from, the materials and what the scene depicts.

Danielle M. Peters, research associate for the Institute for Church Life, says in Notre Dame’s tour booklet, “[The crèches] invite us into the intimacy of the home of the Holy Family, as it were, to encounter the mystery of God’s love dwelling among us as a little, helpless baby.

Dorms by Dana Drysdale

In the span of one week (Dec. 3-10), five different dorms hosted signature events focusing on sharing the Christmas spirit with their residents as well as the rest of the student body. From hosting light shows to decorating trees, these dorms are spreading Christmas cheer — loud for all to hear.

Dillon Light Show

The largest dorm on campus may deck the halls on the inside, but it is the outside that brings a crowd. Each year Dillon hosts a light display with around 5,000 LED light bulbs synchronized to Christmas music for 20-minute long shows.

Even though it takes about 45 hours to program the light/music synchronization, check each light bulb individually, hang the post that carries the weight of a giant ND and the assorted lights and pack it all back up again, the Dillonites have never considered charging a fee or converting the event into a fundraiser. It is a free event held purely to entertain and delight the students walking across South Quad.

In fact, that is how the Big Red event began. “It started with one guy’s initiative in his section, and then he was willing to work on a bigger operation the next year,” Dillon Hall rector Fr. Paul Doyle, C.S.C., says.

In December of 2009, an ambitious sophomore on Dillon’s second floor, the side that looks out towards the Dome and Coleman-Morse Center, “took it upon himself to cover the walls and ceiling of that hallway — just about 10 rooms on either side. He synchronized those lights to his computer and to Christmas music,” Fr. Doyle says. “The next year we went outside with it and hung it on the outside of the building.”

This enterprising event not only brought joy to the Notre Dame community but also the city of South Bend: its first year, the Dillon Light Show featured in the South Bend Tribune.

This year the giant ND sign and accompanying lights decorated Dillon’s outer walls beginning Friday, Dec. 4 with the assistance of cherry pickers. The official light show, however, began the following Sunday after Dillon’s 10:30 Mass.

Carroll Christmas

As one of the smallest dorms on campus, Carroll boasts one of the closest communities — something that comes in handy when creating a winter wonderland. Certainly for the Vermin, it is the most wonderful time of the year prepping and hosting Carroll Christmas.

The celebratory lighting of a giant Christmas tree marked the beginning of Carroll’s holiday festivities on Friday, Dec. 4. But the preparation that goes into this holly jolly Christmas extravaganza starts a month earlier. “Even the week before Thanksgiving we are building things and beginning to work on decorating because we are so excited and want to make it the best it can be,” sophomore Carroll resident Daniel Olivieri says.

“Although Carroll Hall might be small, they do everything big,” junior Carroll Christmas Commissioner Mitchell Meersman says. Carroll is transformed into a hall tailored to the Christmas celebration.

 “In the course of a week the entire dorm is decorated top to bottom to become a magical winter wonderland home to Santa’s workshop and all manner of festive activities,” Meersman says.

Students can ride horse-drawn carriages to the location before competing in ugly sweater contests, listening to carols from the Notre Dame Glee Club and the Halftime acapella group, playing reindeer games and warming up with hot chocolate. Santa and his elves also fly in for coveted “pictures with Santa.”

 “Every year, it just keeps getting better and better,” Olivieri says.

With an entire dorm of devoted Vermin working tirelessly to wish Notre Dame a merry Christmas, Carroll is certainly bringing joy to the world.

Pasquerilla East’s Silent Night, Silent Auction

Do you hear what I hear?


Perfect for a silent auction.

Pasquerilla East’s signature Christmas event blends the excitement of a snowy silent night with the fundraising capabilities of a silent auction. From gift cards to ballroom dance lessons, this auction has a potential present for everyone with 73 donated gift baskets.

All proceeds benefit Hannah’s House, a maternity home that provides a safe home, emotional support and other services for pregnant women and mothers. Originally started as a joint project by Bethel College, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend, Saint Joseph Hospital in Mishawaka and the local Women’s Care Center, Hannah’s House is now an independent agency. 

In addition to the fundraising, this Silent Night also offers cookie decorating, ornament making, hot chocolate, a popcorn bar, gingerbread house making and more. “It’s a really big Christmas party,” junior Christina Shrefler, resident of Pasquerilla East, says. “This year we made an effort to invite faculty and grad students and their young children, which made it really fun.”

Even Santa came to town, courtesy of Rev. Pete McCormick, C.S.C., head of Campus Ministry, who dressed as Santa Claus for photo opportunities.

Howard Halliday

On Friday, Dec. 4, everyone rocked around the Christmas tree(s) scattered around Fieldhouse Mall and North Quad for Howard Halliday, Howard Hall’s signature Christmas event. Like PE’s SNSA, Howard Halliday highlights the holiday spirit by combining festive freebies and fundraising.

Each dorm competed in a Christmas tree decorating contest using trees that Howard supplied. Monetary donations, which are collected throughout the preceding week as well as at the event, acted as “votes” for each tree. While the competition was underway, spectators and donors warmed up with hot cocoa, listened to Christmas carols and visited with Santa.

But it is not just a dorm that wins this contest; each tree, decorations intact, is then donated to families in need while Howard gives the money to Catholic Charities to support even more families during this holiday season.

Taking the holiday spirit even further, the Howard Ducks adopted a family for the upcoming holidays and will purchase gifts for them.

“I have been on the planning committee for the past two years, and I enjoy being able to help bring the simple parts of the holiday that many of us take for granted to those in need,” junior Hannah Miller, resident of Howard Hall, says. “I love that through this event, we are able to make the holidays a bit more special and joyful for those around us and in the larger community.”

Badin Conscious Christmas

For the Badin Bullfrogs, the most wonderful time of the year begins with deliveries from Nepal for their signature event, Conscious Christmas. From the beginning, the focus is on promoting the event rather than organizing entertainment for it.

“All the girls come together … we plan how to advertise it, get the most creative ways to get the event out there,” Resident Assistant and former Hope Initiative Commissioner Chau-Ly Phan says. Since this event is first and foremost a fundraiser, advertising is key.

Conscious Christmas, Badin’s seventh annual fair trade sale of goods made in Nepal, provides hand-made Christmas gifts and the opportunity to make a difference in the world. Students could purchase hand-made scarves, hats, headbands, blankets, totes, handbags, beaded jewelry and more while knowing all of the proceeds benefit humanitarian efforts in Nepal.

Badin Hall has a Hope Commission, a philanthropy-based committee who plan two Bullfrog signature events, the Conscious Christmas and the Polar Bear Plunge. Both fundraisers benefit the Hope Initiative, an international nonprofit organization started by Ann-Marie Conrado, an industrial design professor and a Badin Hall fellow.

“The students go there [Nepal] and do service work over the summer, and also we have art and design students who work directly with the artisans and the co-operatives. We bring those products back [to Notre Dame] to support those efforts. Then all of the proceeds go to those projects,” Conrado says.

Previous years’ donations went to schools, scholarships, orphanages and earthquake relief.

“We were going to donate money to building a playground — and that should be a future project — but with the earthquake happening in Nepal we shifted all of our money from the previous year to earthquake relief,” junior Angela Massoud, Hope Initiative commissioner for Badin Hall, says. Profits from this year’s sale will go towards earthquake relief as well.

“It’s the best event Badin puts on, in my opinion. It’s the best day of the year,” Massoud says.