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Saint Cecelia Church prepares for third annual Advent festival
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Saint Cecelia Church prepares for third annual Advent festival


For the third year running, Saint Cecilia Catholic Church will ring in the Yuletide season with its Tree Lighting Concert, put on by the church’s choirs.

On Nov. 29, just before the start of the Advent season, the concert will kick off the church’s Three Kings Christmas Market, which will offer Dells residents and visitors a beautiful local marketplace to start their holiday shopping.

Local vendors will be on-site with handmade crafts for sale, along with food and drink samplings and a cookie decorating station for the kids. But for church pastor Eric Sternberg, nothing beats the concert on the first night.

“My favorite part is the concert on Friday evening, though the whole market is very enjoyable,” Sternberg said.

The concert itself takes place after the tree outside the church is fully lit up, once guests file into the church to hear music from both the adult and children’s choirs. This year, the choirs will perform “Magnificat,” a piece by Norwegian contemporary composer Kim André Arnesen.

According to music director Tracy Tolzmann, the piece speaks one of the core tenets of the Catholic faith; the divine visitation of the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary. Tolzmann said the choirs have rehearsed the piece for months in anticipation of this concert.

“The Magnificat is the Virgin Mary’s song of praise to God after one of the Bible’s greatest wonders: the angel Gabriel visiting her with the message that she is to be the mother of God’s son,” Tolzmann said in a press release from the church.

Spirituality is, of course, a core tenet of this festival. Even the name has a spiritual root. According to Sternberg, the name was inspired by the famed three kings, or wise men, from the Nativity.

He said that their preparation to visit the baby Jesus inspired the marketplace, so that Dells citizens can prepare for Christmas the way the three kings did.

“The idea is that three kings, or magi or wise men, had to be in their preparations to travel well before Dec. 25,” Sternberg said. “And so, we too prepare through community things … the things that are made at the market are hand-made and sort of artisinal things… to bring simplicity into gift-buying.”

The Three Kings market will fill the parish gymnasium starting at 10 a.m. on Nov. 30, and running through 1 p.m. the next day. All events during the weekend are free and open to the public.

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