Sunday, Dec. 11, lived up to its promise as one of the most festive nights of the year on campus, as Saint Mary’s celebrated the 42nd annual holiday Lighting O’ the Grove on front campus, preceded by the service of Lessons and Carols in Eliza Battle Pittman Auditorium.
The Lighting O’ the Grove featured caroling, special Christmas music, the lighting and dedication of the Christmas tree, refreshments, the dedication of memorial luminaries, and more. More than 500 luminaries, placed and lit by the Granddaughters Club members, illuminated the historic front campus on Hillsborough Street, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The annual Festival of Advent Lessons and Carols began at 6:30 p.m., in historic Eliza Battle Pittman Auditorium. The Chorale and guest musicians, including Saint Mary’s students, presented a program of beautiful Advent music, interspersed with the reading of the traditional Christmas lessons and hymns sung by all.
Donations of non-perishable food was collected for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to help our neighbors in need. With everyone’s contributions, our goal was a significant collection this year to boost the supplies at the Food Bank during the holidays in a year when so many are in need.
History of The Lighting O’ the Grove
The Lighting O’ the Green was first held in 1981 as a gift from Saint Mary’s to the Raleigh community. The event was founded by the 1981-1982 Student Government Association (SGA) officers and the late Henry Read, Saint Mary’s director of development from 1977-1996. The event was first held in front of the Chapel, and a living campus tree was lit. In 1987, the event was relocated to the front of Smedes Hall and, in 1988, renamed The Lighting O’ the Grove. This annual holiday celebration has become one of the school’s most beloved traditions and is sponsored each year by the SGA.
The Luminaries at the Lighting O’ the Grove
The 500 luminaries placed by the Granddaughters Club around the circle drive represented each current student and member of the faculty and staff of Saint Mary’s School. The lone candle in the center of the circle represented all Saint Mary’s alumnae.
Special memorial candles were dedicated this year in memory of:
Emily Urquhart Ayscue ’53C, former trustee;
Douglas Armour Bryant, past vice chair of the Board of Trustees;
Frank A. Daniels Jr., former trustee;
Betty Ray McCain ’50C, class secretary; 2005 Distinguished Alumna Award recipient; three-time commencement speaker;
Michelle Boryk Oppegaard ’93HS ’95C, Alumnae Leadership Council member;
Julian Hart Robertson Jr., Lifetime Giving Society member;
Cary Buxton Taylor III, Lifetime Giving Society member;
Jane Westbrook Thomason ’54HS ’56C, Heritage Society member;
and all Saint Mary’s alumnae and friends who have died within the past year.