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Citadel News Service
19 Oct 2011

Christmas Candlelight Service connects the past with present

A Citadel and Lowcountry tradition, the annual Christmas Candlelight Service, will mark its 74th season this year with nightly services beginning at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 2, 3 and 4 in Summerall Chapel on The Citadel campus.

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“The Citadel Christmas Candlelight Service is one of the few events that links today’s Corps of Cadets, as well as the Charleston community, with their past, harkening to a time when the community would come together to celebrate the season,” said Lt. Col. Joel Harris, Citadel chaplain.

“In 30 years of ministry - 20 as an Army chaplain - I have never witnessed a service as moving as this, nor one that prepares me personally better for the season ahead,"  Harris said. 

The service began simply in the late 1930s when cadets would gather on the chapel steps and sing Christmas carols for the faculty and staff and their families each evening during the holiday season. Under the leadership of then-Citadel President Gen. Charles P. Summerall, the singing was formalized into two services—a Sunday service and Monday candlelight service that combined caroling with performances by the Cadet Glee Club.

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Since then, the service has grown in size and participation to become one of Charleston’s most defining holiday events.

Cadets coordinate the production with Nancy Lefter, director of chorale activities, organist Mark A Bebensee, associate provost for academic affairs, and retired Navy Cmdr. Mike Alverson, director of music. Cadets from the Protestant, Catholic and Gospel choirs, the Chorale, the Women’s Ensemble and members of the Regimental Band take part in the annual celebration of the birth of Christ, observing the events of the Advent, the Annunciation, the Birth of the King, and Epiphany through Scripture lessons and carols. Traditional and international favorites are sung, and special highlights include the Procession of Lights.

The hour-long program is free and open to the public. Donations are accepted. Flash cameras and video lights are not permitted inside the chapel. Guests are encouraged to arrive early to secure parking on campus and seating in the chapel.

For more information, call 843-953-5049.

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