A sense of the divine: Ave Maria Grotto lit up for Christmas

For the first time in more than 80 years, Cullman’s Ave Maria Grotto is lit at night and dressed with Christmas lights. (Heather Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – For the first time in its 85-year history, the Ave Maria Grotto at St. Bernard Abbey is decked out in Christmas lights for festive evening visits. The Grotto unveiled this addition Friday, Dec. 20. Sunday’s event was rained out, but two dates were added: Thursday and Friday, Dec. 26-27, from 5-9 p.m.

Roger Steele, the Grotto’s director, said he and his wife made the decision to start working on the project during the first few days of December and only lit up about half of the Grotto for the project’s inaugural year. However, he hopes that it will become an annual tradition for the whole Grotto to be lit up all month instead of just one or two weekends.

“We’ve had some of the monks walk through and they say it’s like seeing it for the very first time,” Steele commented. “It took us about two and a half or three weeks to get all the lights up, but what we’ve tried to do is create an atmosphere where you can get a sense of the divine.”

Steele said he was pleased with the turnout, in spite of the rain. He hopes that as this event goes on throughout the years, it will grow to be as big as the annual Bloomin’ Festival.

“We kinda started small, but we have large aspirations,” he said.

Christmas at the Grotto admission rates are $6 for adults, $3 for students and free for children younger than 3.

Find out more at www.facebook.com/events/2396134883987512/ or www.facebook.com/avemariagrotto/

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Heather Mann