Winter Carnival Kicks off Christmas Holiday Season at St. John’s

December 9, 2021

Bracing wind and raindrops did not dampen the delight of students looking for fun before the start of final exams and an enthused crowd of alumni, their families, and members of the St. John’s University community, as they officially launched the holiday season on the Queens, NY, campus with the 30th Annual Winter Carnival. The weeklong celebration culminated on Monday, December 6, with a stunning Fireworks by Grucci display and the University’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

As soon as Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., University President, pressed the button to turn on the sparkling white lights that cover the towering tree placed outside the entrance of St. Augustine Hall, several hundred revelers erupted in excited shouts and cheers. Colorful fireworks then lit up the night sky over the Great Lawn, and a nearby, glittering, red and white sign read “The Tradition Continues. We are St. John’s.”     

The festivities marked a highly anticipated return of the popular event, which was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“My class missed out on being able to attend the Winter Carnival last December, so, we are especially thrilled to fully enjoy it now,” said Ethan Burrell, President of Student Government, Inc. The lead organizer of Winter Carnival 2021, Student Government, Inc. coordinated the planning with campus organizations that included the Office of Alumni Relations, Campus Activities, and the R.I.S.E. Network (Reach, Inspire, Succeed, Empower).

“This is a wonderful opportunity and a nice, feel-good moment for everyone who’s connected to the St. John’s community to share since it is the final big event for the fall semester,” added Ethan, a History major.

Chloe Ross, a Pharm.D. candidate, agreed, saying the event was very successful in spreading holiday cheer. “It’s also a great distraction from stressing out over finals, which are coming up very soon,” she added.

Commuter student Jonathan Villegas of the Bronx, NY, took in the sights as he strolled by the D’Angelo Center (DAC), where several carnival activities were based. “This is my first Winter Carnival,” he said. “I was already here on campus for class so figured why not stay longer and enjoy the holiday mood I am feeling.” He is a junior who majors in Health and Human Services.

Winter Carnival 2021 kicked off on Tuesday, November 30, with a special movie night for students. They gathered in the D’Angelo Center for a showing of Christmas classics Elf and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

On Friday, December 3, attendees enjoyed the Red Storm Men’s Basketball game held at UBS Arena in Elmont, NY. On Sunday, December 5, students were offered an ice skating trip to the World Ice Arena in Queens, NY, courtesy of Student Government, Inc., R.I.S.E., and Campus Activities.

The carnival began in the late afternoon just outside the DAC entrance with a holiday market. Shoppers gathered around tables assembled by local vendors to peruse and purchase jewelry, vintage clothing, candles, and art. Heat lamps were set up to keep everyone warm as they shopped.

Inside the DAC, students lined up during Santa’s workshop to receive free stockings, blue and white socks, and red and white knitted hats. On the DAC’s fourth floor, they feasted on cheesecake and other treats as part of a dessert party before gathering in an adjoining room to view performances by members of the University’s Voices of Victory gospel choir, the Mixed Chorus singing group, and the St. John’s Dance Team and Kickline.

Immediately following the performances, the crowd strolled over to the Great Lawn for the tree lighting and fireworks. Nearby, many alumni enjoyed hot chocolate, treats, selfies with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a private viewing of the grand finale.

Nancy Sanchez ’18CPS of Patchogue, NY, stood cradling her seven-month-old daughter as she waited with her 4-year-old daughter and husband for the tree lighting to begin.

“I love it!” she exclaimed. “I adore the Christmas music they are playing over the loudspeaker. As soon as you hear Christmas music, that helps to get you into the holiday spirit. We will definitely come to Winter Carnival next year.”