St. Olaf College | News

Celebrating the season with the St. Olaf Christmas Festival

This year’s St. Olaf Christmas Festival, Love Divine, will take place live and in person on the St. Olaf College campus December 3-5.

Safety is a top priority as St. Olaf resumes on-campus performances of this beloved holiday tradition, and the college will be implementing a number of COVID-19 safety protocols for visitors and participants. St. Olaf Broadcast Media Services will also provide a free live video stream of the Sunday, December 5, performance for all those who would like to experience the musical celebration of the season virtually. Minnesota Public Radio will broadcast the same performance.

For those who wish to attend in person, a few remaining tickets are available.

All visitors attending Christmas Festival events will be required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before entry, and will be required to wear a mask at all times while indoors. Seating capacity for the three live performances has also been reduced. Families should note that because of the vaccine requirement and timing of vaccine eligibility for kids, children age 11 and under are not permitted at the Christmas Festival this year. These protocols were developed in partnership with the college’s epidemiologist, taking into account a variety of factors, including the conditions at St. Olaf and in our broader community, building ventilation, estimated attendance numbers, and the planned duration of the Christmas Festival program.

Visitors may present a hard copy of their vaccination card, a proof of immunization from the clinic or hospital, or a photo of their card. We recommend visitors have their proof of vaccination ready when they enter the check-in lines, which will be located at the entrances to Skoglund Auditorium and in the Pause at Buntrock Commons. Visitors who are unable to present proof of vaccination will not be allowed into Skoglund Auditorium or into the Scandinavian dinners at the Buntrock Commons Ballrooms or Stav Hall. They will be able to request a refund, with no fees or penalties.

If ticket holders have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, they must stay home and not attend the festival. They will be able to request a refund, with no fees or penalties.

All musicians performing in the St. Olaf Christmas Festival are fully vaccinated, will be masked for the duration of the performance, and will be tested for COVID-19 three separate times before and during the weekend of the festival to further ensure maximum safety for our students, conductors, staff, and audience members.

A traditional Scandinavian buffet is available in the Buntrock Commons Ballrooms, and a similar buffet is available in Stav Hall. Reservations are not required or offered. In order to be on time for the concert, visitors must be seated for dinner no later than 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and by 2 p.m. on Sunday. Upon arrival into the Buntrock Commons building, visitors must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before continuing on to the dinner location of their choice. Visitors should plan to enter Buntrock Commons through the Pause, which is located just inside the main entrance. The entrance will be well marked.

We anticipate long lines at Skoglund Auditorium while checking audiences’ COVID-19 vaccination status. Visitors whose vaccination status has been approved will receive a wristband, which grants them access into the performance hall and to the Scandinavian dinner location of their choice. Christmas Festival ticket holders who are not attending a dinner but find themselves in Buntrock Commons for any of the extra musical performances or to visit with students may have their vaccination status approved in the Pause beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. Those visitors who receive a wristband at Buntrock Commons will be able to bypass the Skoglund Auditorium lines ahead of the performance.

St. Olaf Orchestra Conductor Steven Amundson conducts the 2019 Christmas Festival. This year will mark the last Christmas Festival for Amundson, who is retiring this spring after 40 years of service to the college.
St. Olaf Orchestra Conductor Steven Amundson conducts the 2019 Christmas Festival. This year will mark the last Christmas Festival for Amundson, who is retiring this spring after 40 years of service to the college.

First held in 1912, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival is one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the United States. Led by five conductors, it features more than 500 student musicians who are members of the college’s world-renowned choirs and orchestra.

This year will mark the last St. Olaf Christmas Festival for St. Olaf Orchestra Conductor Steven Amundson, who will retire this spring after 40 years at the college. St. Olaf will mark this poignant moment by honoring Amundson’s years of service and dedication as he conducts his final Christmas Festival.

The festival features a rich repertoire of classic Advent and Christmas compositions, familiar carols, hymns from around the world, and contemporary pieces from a diverse range of composers and cultures, offering music that both celebrates the Norwegian American history of the college while also highlighting beautiful works from around the globe. It traditionally closes with the hymn “Beautiful Savior.”

Regularly broadcast across the United States on public television and radio, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival has been featured nationally in publications such as TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.

Last year St. Olaf did not host the Christmas Festival as the global pandemic escalated. Instead, Christmas Festival organizers produced All Earth is Hopeful, a virtual concert and music program that showcased music from recent Christmas Festival programs as well as additional material from festival concerts not seen in many years.

During the entire weekend, Christmas festivities take place across the St. Olaf campus. The Norseman Band hosts its annual sing-a-long at 5 p.m. on Friday in Boe Chapel, and St. Olaf’s three handbell choirs will perform on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in Buntrock Commons. The Cage coffee shop in Buntrock Commons is open to the public.

Learn more about the St. Olaf Christmas festival at