A jubilant crowd of students, faculty, alumni, parents, administrators, and staff kicked off the Christmas holiday season on St. John’s Queens, NY, campus with the 28th Annual Winter Carnival, a weeklong celebration that was capped December 11 by spectacular fireworks and the University’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Delighted spectators, many of them students seeking some fun before heading into final exams and the end of the fall semester, roared with approval when hundreds of glittering white lights suddenly lit up a huge Christmas tree outside St. Augustine Hall. The Grucci fireworks display followed seconds later on the Great Lawn, as big bursts of color erupted over a sparkling red and white sign that read, “We are St. John’s: The Tradition Continues.”
“Winter Carnival really is a stress reliever. It’s great that St. John’s does this,” said Mary Medna, of Queens, a senior majoring in biology, who took in the sights. “I do not see many other schools putting resources behind similar events. St. John’s always creates special occasions to make us feel like we truly belong here.”
“Our annual Winter Carnival always offers the perfect opportunity for the St. John’s community to come together for a much-needed break and a chance to enjoy the holidays, right here in a campus setting,” said Ebony J. Calvin, Director of Campus Activities.
“Winter Carnival is proof that St. John’s cares about promoting a sense of community,” said Andrea Sifuentes, a senior chemistry major from West Palm Beach, FL, before taking part in another Winter Carnival tradition—a ride on a horse-drawn carriage around the Great Lawn. “Instead of running between class and the library, we can enjoy these events and enjoy each other.”
The 2018 Winter Carnival began December 2 at the iconic Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, where St. John’s attendees enjoyed an annual musical holiday stage show that featured the legendary Rockettes. The next day, Student Government, Inc. (SGI) hosted a skating party at New York City’s skating rink in Bryant Park. Other activities throughout the week included marathon screenings of holiday movies—complete with popcorn and candy—in The Little Theatre on the Queens campus; a Jingle Bell Rock Karaoke in the living room of the D’Angelo Center (DAC); and Santa’s Workshop, during which participants gathered in the DAC to decorate cookies, stockings, and hats.
“The Winter Carnival truly is a morale-boosting gift from the University,” said Atemkeng Tazi, SGI President and a senior majoring in Health and Human Services in St. John’s College of Professional Studies.
“We may still have lots of schoolwork to finish, but we can also fully embrace and observe this very holy time of the year.”
The evening festivities began with a celebration of the annual Winter Carnival Mass at St. Thomas More Church. Immediately following the mass, participants convened for the fireworks and Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which also featured a performance by the University’s Voices of Victory gospel choir. Nearby, many alumni revelers enjoyed hot chocolate, treats, and selfies with Santa, while keeping an eye on their young children, who played and made crafts during a special reception that was hosted for alumni in front of Newman Hall.
Just outside the alumni reception area, Robert Mangione ’02C, ’04G, ’16Ed.D. of Malverne, NY, snapped photos of his children, Mariella, 5, and Sebastian, 10.
“We come every year to stay engaged with my alma mater, as well as to introduce a whole new generation to St. John’s,” said Mr. Mangione, Director, St. John’s Long Island Graduate Center, and Assistant Professor, The School of Education.
As she strolled along in the brisk evening air with her 10-year-old son Rocco, Christine DePaola ’97C, ’99G, had a ready explanation for why she enjoys Winter Carnival so much.
“The fireworks; Rocco is the most excited about that,” said Ms. DePaola, of New Hyde Park, NY. Then, she had another thought.
“Coming to Winter Carnival,” she added, “always feels like coming home.”