Friday November 16th kicked off the 49th Annual Way of Lights Christmas Display at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois. It also marked the beginning of Fr. Andy Knop’s first Christmas as Director of the Shrine, “I’m excited about what’s going on, a lot of work went into it, this is my first experience to be part of the preparations, it’s been a very positive experience.
The mile-long Way of Lights is open each evening from 5 to 9 PM now through January 1st, with over a million lights featuring light sculptures, twinkling stars and a life-sized creche in the Lourdes’ Grotto. Driving through the spell-binding light display is always free of charge as are some other activities at the Shrine Visitor’s Center, such as the International Christmas Tree Room, Christmas wreath displays and performances by local choirs which take place in the lobby of the Visitor’s Center in December. Other activities with fees include camel and donkey rides, carriage rides and the giant, indoor Christmas Lego display.
Some new additions to the Way of Lights include a special Christmas concert by the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale featuring an abundance of Christmas favorites. This will take place at the Church of Our Lady of the Snows on Sunday November 25, at 4:30 PM. There is a charge for tickets to this event.
The Shrine is also making Tuesdays “Family Nights” at the Way of Lights. Always a smart choice for those wishing to avoid the larger crowds, Tuesdays now include special discounts on the activities for kids and an opportunity to sample the casual cuisine from a selection of popular food trucks that will park at the Shrine offering families the chance to snack on Asian tacos, Philly cheese steaks, hot dogs and more. For the less adventurous, the indoor Shrine Restaurant will also be open just across the lobby from the gift shop.
While hoping for a great 2019 Christmas Season, Fr. Knop is already thinking ahead: “We’re already thinking about next year which will be the 50th Anniversary – to perhaps come up with something to celebrate 50 years of the Way of Lights. No spoilers here- Fr. Knop isn’t saying what that might be.
One thing is certain at the Way of Lights this year, or 50 years from now, the spectacular light show is always faith-based, no cartoon characters or action figures, it’s all about the story and spirit of Christmas.