Cabrini bids farewell to ‘Merry Little Christmas’ tradition


By Brooke Protesto
December 12, 2023

Campus Ministry students participating in the live nativity scene. Photo by John Doyle.
Campus Ministry students participating in the live nativity scene. Photo by John Doyle.

“Merry Little Christmas” was a beloved daylong tradition at Cabrini for many years. However, this year saw its final run on December 3. 

Dr. Michelle Filling-Brown, dean of Academic Affairs said, “There are so many people across campus who help bring this day together. From campus ministry, to the president’s office, to SEaL.” 

The event includes many stations throughout the campus for all to enjoy. “It features professional photos, a selfie station, hot cocoa and cookies, arts and crafts, the live nativity, Mass, and then Christmas dinner in the cafeteria,” said Filling-Brown. 

Evolution of the event

“Merry Little Christmas” evolved over the years. Originally, it was run by different organizations on campus and had different activities. “Years ago it used to be event that was run by Institutional Advancement. It was an event that I believe you actually paid a contribution to attend. So, it was really geared toward alumni.” Filling-Brown said. “They used to have horse-drawn carriage rides and things like that.”

Students petting Billy C. Goat at the live nativity scene. Photo by John Doyle.

Even though the event offers different accommodations from years past, alumni still come to Cabrini to join the fun. Bridget O’Donnell, director of SEaL said, “We’ve seen alumni come back today and they had their kids here.” 

The COVID-19 outbreak changed the focus of the event. Filling-Brown said, “Post-COVID, we made this a little bit more focused on students, and there are certainly alums and people who are coming back for it. We want to make sure there’s a nice Christmas event for all of our students before we head into finals and everyone heads home for the end of the semester.”

Cabrini’s last festive hurrah

One of the day’s headline events, the live nativity scene, always draws a crowd. “The live nativity features live animals so those are always a hit and a big piece of the live nativity tradition.” O’Donnell said. 

Even though the weather was cloudy and rainy, people still came out to view the live nativity. Some of the animals included in this year’s scene were a donkey, a sheep, and three goats. Here is a link to an interview with one of the stars of the scene, Billy C. Goat.

Another popular event is the Christmas Mass. Emily Lichius, sophomore writing and narrative arts major said, “We often have a lot of alumni at this event. It’s one of our largest alumni events of the year, including Fall Fest.”

Not just Cabrini alumni attend the event. “There were people outside of the community who just came to watch and also came to the Mass that year. So I know for a fact that there are people who come from just the community to come help us celebrate,” Lichius said

In Grace Hall, O’Donnell said, “There are also crafts for kiddos, coloring, and little foam crafts.” 

Diners enjoying the dinner provided by the Sodexo staff. Photo by Brooke Protesto.

To wrap up the day, the dining hall did its part. O’Donnell said, “There’s always a nice big dinner, a holiday dinner in Cav’s Corner that Sodexo puts together for us.” They served ham with macaroni and cheese, and vegetables on the side. Dessert included an array of different cookies and other pastries. 

Due to the university’s closure, this is the last time “Merry Little Christmas” will happen at Cabrini. But it still drew in a big crowd. O’Donnell said, “There were over 400 RSVPs, almost 500 RSVPs. I think people are just really excited to do this traditional event come to campus again and for one last time.”

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Brooke Protesto

Brooke Protesto is a Junior at Cabrini University. She’s a Communications Major with a Leadership Studies Minor. Cabrini was a big part of her childhood, her father is a part of Facilities and Athletics. “Take your kid to work” day was her favorite time of the year! It was only natural for her to enroll at Cabrini. Brooke spends her time playing softball, is a Resident Assistant on campus, DJs for Cavalier Radio, and is a reporter for the Loquitur. For her last year at Cabrini, she plans to make the most of it.

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