Skip to main content

One of the most cherished traditions for John Carroll students, both past and present, was born out of necessity. The origins of Christmas Carroll Eve go back over 50 years and its founding can be attributed to the university’s ski club. 


In the late 1960s a group of JCU students who were avid skiers wanted to form a university sanctioned club. In order to gain a charter and become officially recognized by the university,  all groups were required to perform some form of community service or event. 


According to John Cunningham ’76,  the founding members of the ski club decided to organize an evening where students would sing Christmas carols in the community in order to compete with other collegiate ski clubs. Those ski enthusiasts— albeit inadvertently, also became the founding members of Christmas Carroll Evening as it was referred to back in 1968 during its inception.  


CCE circa 1970

Christmas Carroll Eve circa 1970

The evening would signify two major events for JCU students; the beginning of the holiday season, and the ending of fall semester classes. Over the years, the event would take place one evening on the weekend before finals began.


Christmas Carroll Eve, or CCE was by no means an afterthought for the ski club. They worked to make campus as festive as possible — lining the quad with luminarias and stringing lights on one campus tree to be lit before the singing started. Ahead of the tree lighting, the University President or other JCU dignitary would give a keynote address on the upcoming holidays. Once the tree was lit, students processed around the quad while caroling, making their way to the auditorium for midnight Mass. 


CCE early

the early years of Christmas Carroll Eve

Following Mass, many students took part in after-parties that stretched into the wee hours of the morning — a last chance for revelry before finals week. Cunningham, who organized CCE as a sophomore, says he has fond memories of the event and the post Mass get togethers “I’ll keep the details private, but we had some fun, blowing off some steam after all the work we had done” he recalls. 


The founding elements of decorating campus, holiday music, a keynote speech and attending Mass have changed very little since 1968, but like any long-standing tradition, there have been modifications made over the years. 


CCE circa 1988

Christmas Carroll Eve circa 1988

During the mid-1980s there were two major additions to Christmas Carroll Eve. First, alumni and the University Heights Community surrounding campus were invited to participate. Second, the post Mass meal was introduced around 1984. These newly adopted features led to a large increase in attendance. The community was excited for access to an event they had undoubtedly heard over the years, and the free, late-night feast would entice the few outlier students to take part in the holiday festivities. 


John Reilly ’86 remembers the drastic uptick in attendance during that era of Christmas Carroll Eve. “I recall seeing a sea of people filing in to pack the quad, genuinely enjoying themselves.” He says “Even the groundskeepers participated because it launched the holiday season for everyone - that’s the impression I got from the surrounding community as well.”


In addition to a boost in attendance, technology was also incorporated into the event during this era of CCE. The student-run radio station, WJCU, helped amplify the musical component of Christmas Carroll Eve. The station would get a playlist from organizers and DJ’s would broadcast those holiday songs on-air and over the campus public address system. Students living in the dorms helped set the scene by putting their speakers in the windows facing the quad and turning up the volume.



The aforementioned shift in tradition took another turn in the late 1990s and early 2000s. WJCU no longer facilitated the quad being filled with music and the caroling faded into the lore of years past. The University Heights Community no longer comes to campus to welcome in the holiday season. However, there are integral customs of Christmas Carol Eve that continue to thrive. The student procession, Mass and post-service meal have survived throughout the years. 


Christmas Carol Eve continues to evolve, adding novel traditions in recent years. Choir and musical performances from student bands now fill the Lombardo Student Center ahead of the procession to Church of the Gesu for Mass. Well-known faculty members read excerpts from the classic  children’s book “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas'' to JCU students. And one of the most popular components, the post Mass meal, continues to thrive. 


cce 6

Christmas Carroll Eve 2019

The evolution of CCE continued through the years until 2020. The pandemic forced JCU to operate remotely, effectively canceling all on campus events — including Christmas Carroll Eve. Last year’s hiatus has prompted JCU organizers to rekindle the tradition of CCE, bringing back some of the activities that have disappeared over the years. The absence of last year’s event has made the entire campus community aware of how significant Christmas Carroll Eve is to our university, its students, faculty, staff and alumni. 


This year’s Christmas Carroll Eve is devoted to bridging old traditions with new — bringing back the fanfare of years past while advancing the event for future JCU generations. A new tree has been planted on the western corner of the quad which will serve as the university Christmas Tree. John Carroll Alumni are also invited to take part in the Christmas Carroll Eve festivities.



This year’s triumphant return of Christmas Carroll Eve is scheduled for Saturday, December 11th. The quad will once again be adorned with holiday decorations and an alumni reception in front of Rodman Hall will kick off the evening. The new campus Christmas Tree will be dedicated and lit in the spirit of Christmas Carroll Eve’s early years. President Miciak will serve as the keynote speaker and make a holiday address to those in attendance. Campus will also host a special guest from the North Pole. Santa Claus will also take a break from checking his list twice to take part in the festivities.


Following the lighting of the tree, an alumni choir featuring former members of the University Glee Club and various a capella groups will sing holiday songs to close out the alumni reception. A Christmas concert will follow in Kulas Auditorium before the traditional procession to the Church of the Gesu. Following Mass, students will return to campus for one of the most anticipated meals of the year — post Mass breakfast served in the Schott Dining Hall along with a special game of Christmas Carroll Eve Bingo.

JCU Students

The John Carroll Community has a unique opportunity this year to rekindle the tradition of Christmas Carroll Eve. From the Alumni who created this event to current students who have never taken part, it's imperative we further this annual tradition of coming together to welcome the Holiday Season. Please join the entire John Carroll Family as we embark on the latest evolution of Christmas Carroll Eve.