(12/2012) Christmas Eve is the big Christmas celebration in my family. We have Polish roots so we go to Mass on Christmas Eve, enjoy a large traditional Wigilia meal, and share presents late at night. On Christmas morning, we just wake up to a few presents from Santa. In the days leading up to Christmas, my family also has special
traditions. Some of them include going to a night of Advent lessons and carols at my parish, and driving around to see Christmas lights. We also light our advent wreath every week on our dining room table, and put emphasis on the days after December 25th during the Christmas season that officially ends with the Baptism of the Lord, which is celebrated on the
Sunday after January 6th every year.
These were my Christmas traditions for 18 years. Then, I packed my parent’s mini-van in Florida and they left me in Maryland to attend Mount St. Mary’s. I knew that I would meet new friends in college. I knew that I would have to study hard, and play hard on the tennis courts. But what I didn’t realize is that my Christmases would never be
My favorite number has always been four. I had number four on my jersey on soccer teams from when I was four until I was a senior in high school. I like even numbers, and since my older sister already had chosen two as her favorite number, I had to choose four. My past three Christmases at the Mount have been awesome and have taught me a
lot about COMMUNITY, FAITH, and TRADITION. But I know my fourth is going to be a very blessed Christmas too!
My first Christmas at the Mount was like a Christmas card—literally. Those Christmas cards that we all receive from friends and relatives every year are actually based on reality. This was news to me. I had never seen snow in my life when I first came to the Mount, and my freshman year was the blizzard year at the Mount. We didn’t just get
a couple inches of snow— We were bombarded with feet of snow!
I’ll never forget that first night. I was doing homework in my dormroom when one of my friends called me, "Hey, it’s snowing! We’re going outside!" I didn’t need to hesitate, "I’m in!" I threw on a pair of yoga pants, the only winter jacket I owned, some cotton gloves, and my rain boots and ran outside.
I wasn’t three feet out the front door of Sheridan when a snowball crashed into my arm. Happiness overwhelmed me—Snow! I tried forming snowballs of my own, but was getting hit too quickly by snowballs from my friends to really make good ones. Plus my cotton gloves just weren’t going to work. My hands were freezing, but I barely noticed. I
laid back into the snow and made my first snow angel. Then, I was table-topped to the ground. My friends briefly showed me how to table-top and I tried it. Unfortunately, I was too caught up in the excitement and kneeled in front of my friend instead of behind my friend. Table-topping doesn’t work like that.
Then, I looked around me. Everyone was outside. It wasn’t just my friends. It wasn’t just my class. It was the Mount community.
We stayed outside playing in the snow until two in the morning. It is known as the "infamous snow fight of 2009." I had friends to my dorm for hot chocolate afterward. My hands needed the warmth. School was canceled for a week. We watched movies, played games, and even caught up on schoolwork. I also dragged my northern friends out to play
in the snow more—football, sledding, anything.
Freshman year, I experienced the community of the Mount. We shared a lot together, including snow-fights, and supported each other. My friends and I strived to be good, especially when we needed friends the most entering college. This experience of community stayed with me as I went home for Christmas.
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." Romans 12:9-10
There was no blizzard my sophomore year at the Mount. However, my Christmas was enhanced because of my time at the Mount. One occasion that stands out in particular is the Seminary Open House.
The seminary houses about 170 seminarians on the Mount campus. Undergraduates most often see the seminarians in the cafeteria, library, and gym. They’re not hard to spot in their all black attire. When students take Moral Philosophy or Moral Theology as a part of the core class requirement, they will most likely have some seminarians in
their class. The seminarians are also team chaplains for the Division I sports teams, and help with campus ministry functions. Yet, their life inside the big stone building on the south side of campus is mostly unknown to undergraduates.
When the seminary announced its Christmas open house date, the seminarian team chaplains for the tennis team invited all of us to attend. We showed up expecting a brief tour through some parts of the seminary and some refreshments. We were pleasantly surprised.
Ever year, the seminarians compete to construct the best Christmas decorated hallway. This is no fifth-grade door decorating contest. This is an all-out event. The first hallway was filled with hay. A "live" Mary and Joseph were standing around a cradle with a baby. Live goats were also present!
Another hallway was designed to look like the inside of an airplane. We sat down in the seats in the airplane and a "flight attendant" walked through the aisle with Christmas treats. Air masks were hanging from the ceiling. Someone announced over a microphone that we had almost arrived at the North Pole. It really felt like we were on an
airplane, but we were really just in a hallway in the seminary.
The tour of the seminary really inspired me by witnessing the faith of the seminarians. They leave their homes and families to serve the Church. It gave me a boost in my own faith to bring home for Christmas.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Junior year, my friends and I decided to do something different. We hadn’t gone into Washington, D.C. enough, and it is only a quick car or train ride away. We wanted to make a new Christmas tradition.
The capital of our nation has carried on the tradition of lighting a National Christmas Tree since 1923. The tree is located on a grassy area called the Ellipse in D.C., just south of the White House. In 1954, a Pathway of Peace was created that showcases fifty-six small, decorated Christmas trees representing the fifty states, five
territories, and the District of Columbia. The largest National Christmas Tree was erected in 1978. It was a forty-foot Colorado blue spruce.
The tree that my friends and I found in D.C. last year wasn’t forty feet, but it was an impressive tree. We enjoyed partaking in a tradition that’s made for our whole country to enjoy—just an hour and a half from the Mount.
I had grown up with a lot of Christmas traditions, but this experience was a new Christmas tradition. It made me reflect again about how remembering Christ’s birth is the important tradition—It is why we celebrate Christmas. There’d be no Christmas tree if God hadn’t humbled Himself and took on the form of a man to save us.
"To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter." 2 Thessalonians 2:14-15
Community, Faith and Tradition are themes that emerged from my past three Christmases at the Mount. I could have never imaged what I have experienced at the Mount. My first snow-ball fight was a gathering of the Mount student community. Christmas was a very appropriate time for me to recognize the value of community in my family and my
friends. In my second Christmas, I witnessed a glimpse into the life of seminarians striving to serve God. It only made me want to serve God, who became man at Christmas, more. Finally, visiting the Christmas tree in D.C. helped me to recognize the worthiness of traditions, especially the most important ones.
Who knows what is in store for this Christmas. I have high hopes. The Mount hasn’t disappointed me in the past. I’m ready for another adventure, another experience, anything that will make Christmas more enriching— And four is my lucky number!