From farm to Rotunda: Annual Christmas tree ceremony comes to light again

Alex Weidner, Managing Editor

The Marywood community gathers in the Rotunda every year in early December for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. There’s a lot more that goes into planning the event than it seems.

The massive Christmas tree came from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA, according to Marywood Grounds Manager Jimmy Kanuik.

“They’re one of the farms, that a lot of the time, they provide the tree for inside of the White House,” said Kanuik.

Kanuik has been decorating Marywood for Christmas for almost 30 years. Every year, he picks out the tree that is displayed through the holiday season. This year the tree is a 23-foot-tall Douglas Fire.

Photo credit/ Alex Weidner
The towering evergreen remains lit through the holiday season in Marywood’s Rotunda.

“They used to cut them off campus. Cut them, drag them across campus,” said Kanuik. “Half the time branches would break. You’d have to tie them up or stick them in the tree.”

The trees sourced from campus were blue spruce, according to Kanuik. While he saw a few other buyers for Douglas fir at Crystal Spring, he said that Douglas firs are hard to find. They take up a lot of space, so many tree farms in the area don’t grow them.

But the tree in the Rotunda isn’t much different from the trees in homes across the country, albeit just a lot taller. In fact, Kanuik said one of the other buyers he encountered this year was getting a 20-foot Douglas fir for their home.

It used to take a team of men with ropes to raise the towering evergreen, but now Kanuik has a group of contractors install the tree with forklifts. The tree stands on a custom-built tree stand built by a former Marywood employee.

After the tree is brought into the Rotunda, it’s mostly just Kanuik who strings the lights around the tree and decorates the Rotunda. He said that this year, the tree is wider than before so he had to get more lights to string. Kanuik estimates he uses 20,000 LED lights to decorate each year, but this year it’s closer to 30,000 lights total. Between his duties as Grounds Manager, Kanuik and the grounds crew decorate the Rotunda, the tree in the Learning Commons and the exterior of President Sr. Mary Persico’s, IHM, Ed. D, house.

Photo credit/ Bethany Wade
The tree awaits decoration.

A day before the scheduled ceremony on Dec. 6, the tree is surrounded by caution tape to keep it from being tampered with. Chartwells employees begin setting up tables around the Rotunda for refreshments.

John Coval, director of Conference and Event Services, is in charge of the overall planning for the tree lighting ceremony. He said he ordered enough refreshments for at least 350 people.

“There’s over a thousand cookies out on the floor today,” said Coval.

Photo credit/ Carolyn Warcup


As always, student organizations and clubs hung decorations representing their groups on the tree. Student Government Association President Jenna Edmonds, a senior art therepy major, invited the students up to the tree to hang their ornaments.

After students hung ornaments, Persico thanked the crowd for coming out to the event. Students, faculty and community members filled the Rotunda on both floors.

Coval also organizes someone to light the tree, and this year, Chief of Campus Safety Mike Pasqualicchio and his children Michael and Avery were lucky enough to do the honors. Persico led a countdown before the trio turned on the thousands of lights.


Chief of Campus Safety Mike Pasqualicchio and his children Michael and Avery had the honors of lighting the tree. Photo credit: Kimberly Del Valle

Entertainment was provided by various musical groups from campus: jazz group Pour Four; the Chamber Singers; and the Jazz Ensemble, who sang and played Christmas carols for the packed room after the tree was lit.

The tree isn’t the only festive addition to campus come the holiday season. Kanuik started setting up the Nativity scene under the archway on campus. He said it’s even been the site of a wedding photo shoot this year. As far as what the future holds, Kanuik has a list of projects he wants to add to the annual Christmas decor, like putting wreaths on the light posts across campus.

Photo credit/ Alex Weidner
Marywood’s archway is home to a life-sized nativity scene.
Photo credit/ Alex Weidner
Marywood’s archway is home to a life-sized nativity scene.

“I want to get giant nutcrackers for the side of the PAC, because they have ‘The Nutcracker’ every year. And I’d like to have some kind of wreath for in front of the Rotunda, like up on top or above the door,” said Kanuik.

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Twitter: @WeidnerTWW