Guests enjoy a wagon ride at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament Christmas Open House on Saturday. (Heather Mann for The Cullman Tribune)
HANCEVILLE – As a way to celebrate 19 years in Hanceville and to reach out to the community, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament held an open house on Saturday, complete with a variety of sights and activities.
The first things visitors saw were the Christmas decorations spanning the grounds, from ribbons and wreaths on the light poles to a giant Christmas tree in front of San Miguel Castle, perfect for family photo ops. Lights woven into bushes and trees make for a dazzling nights on the grounds, and sightseers year-round can enjoy the permanent nativity display in the Creche Grotto (as well as donate a quarter or two for the votive candles).
This time of year, one of the bigger draws is the opportunity to take a festive ride around the grounds. The rides take place either in a horse-drawn carriage, for those with reservations, or a hay ride trailer for those spur-of-the-moment visitors. The rides will be put on hold until after Christmas and will resume on Thursday the 27th and Friday the 28th from 1-4:30 p.m., and Saturday the 29th from 10 a.m. to noon and 1-4:30 p.m. Drivers arriving on the grounds are urged to use caution as the wagon rides do cross the main entrance to the parking lots. Call 256-787-4121 to ask about ride reservations.
Guests can also enjoy free refreshments in the castle with coffee and hot chocolate, assorted holiday candy, and homemade cookies courtesy of the nuns.
When asked about the decision to host an open house, pilgrimage assistant Lizzie Bomback said, "We really wanted to make sure the local community knew they were welcome to come. This place really is a gift to the community, and so we decided that Christmas was a good time to invite people out. We were hoping that people could walk around and be dazzled by the Christmas season and be renewed in their excitement for it, just have a moment to slow down during the busy time it brings and remember the beauty of it."
Bomback smiled, "This is a place where we want people of all faiths, all religions, people of no faith, to come and join us in our efforts to reach the world in evangelization. It's where people of all faiths can come and worship the Lord, and we want everyone to know that they are welcome here."
The Shrine will be holding a Christmas midnight mass on Christmas Day, with Christmas carols shortly before on Christmas Eve. A full schedule of the services for the 24th and 25th can be found at www.olamshrine.com/event/christmas/.
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