Tree Lighting is a Unifying Celebration for the Entire Campus Community

Michelle Eggink, Assistant Director of Content Marketing & Communications

November 20, 2023 — 'Tis the season to light up the night sky with the iconic Marist Holiday Tree. As we eagerly await the annual Marist Holiday Tree lighting — set for Monday, Nov. 27 — let's recognize how much time and effort goes into setting up this community tradition and learn more about its festive features. Dedicated Marist staff spend weeks getting every detail just right before the lighting ceremony.

October Start: It takes four groundskeepers to decorate the Marist Holiday Tree, all of whom start putting up the lights in mid-October to avoid extreme weather conditions and to invest a high level of attention to detail while setting up.

“The overall feat of decorating the tree can be daunting; however, it is always rewarding!” said Ground Supervisor, Brian Coons. “There is a sense of pride within my team assigned to the tree that is always nice to see.”

This year’s grounds team, Aurelio Tapia, Dave Rifenburgh, Timoteo Perez, and Felipe Morales, individually wrapped each branch of the tree with strands of lights.

Image of tree being decorated.

Aurelio Tapia, groundskeeper at Marist for 27 years, putting up lights on the tree. Photo by Nelson Echeverria/Marist College.

77,000 Lights! The Marist Holiday Tree is adorned with a staggering 77,000 lights, meticulously arranged in 770 strands, all of which are energy-efficient LED. That’s 55% more lights than the Rockefeller Center tree in New York City!

Although Marist has lit a tree on campus since the 1980’s according to Brother Frank Kelly, the current impressive lighting display has been done since 2002.



Did You Know?

For more than 30 years, Marist has sponsored local families in need with holiday gifts. Through the Giving Tree initiative, the Department of Spiritual Life and Service (formerly Campus Ministry) has distributed over 20,000 gifts to the local community during that time.

These gifts support families through the generosity of the Marist community and are distributed via local partners such as Dutchess Outreach, Grace Smith House, Family Services, Catholic Charities, Poughkeepsie Family Literacy Program, and Dutchess BOCES/ESL.

This year’s Giving Trees are now placed around campus, located in Donnelly, Lowell Thomas, James A. Cannavino Library, Fontaine, Hancock, the Champagnat breezeway, the Allied Health Building, and the MPorium store in Steel Plant.

There are three categories of ornaments on each tree for anyone to take and purchase the gift written on the tag.

Gifts need to be wrapped and brought to the Chapel by Sunday, Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m. for the Giving Tree Ceremony.



Height and Sights from Route 9: Standing 48 feet tall, the tree captivates local Dutchess County onlookers with its grandeur, easily visible from Route 9.

Image of Dave Rifenburgh, veteran groundskeeper putting up lights on the tree.

Dave Rifenburgh, veteran groundskeeper who has been with Marist for 19 years. Photo by Nelson Echeverria/Marist College.

Red Fox Lighting Scheme: Every fifth light on the Marist Holiday Tree is a vibrant red, showcasing our school spirit and generating a warm glow of color.


However you celebrate this holiday season, the Marist Holiday Tree’s bright lights serve as a symbol of celebration, hope, and community strength. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the Marist Holiday Tree has become a cherished gathering place for the campus community where people can take pictures, chat, and bring warmth to chilly winter days and nights with laughter and love.

Mark your calendar for the Department of Spiritual Life and Service’s Marist Holiday Tree Lighting on Nov. 27 at 5:15 p.m. Enjoy festive music and hear from members of the Marist community. The Marist Holiday Tree Lighting will take place in front of the Chapel. All backgrounds and faiths are invited to participate.

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