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By Mechelle Lawrence Adams

It’s that time of year when we can sometimes lose sight that Christmas is supposed to be a time for opening our hearts and slowing down in order to see the blessings around us.

Whether it’s the religious tradition of Catholicism established here by Father Serra, or the spiritual and emotional value of this aged landmark that welcomes our visitors, be they Christian, Jewish or Muslim, we see the Mission as being one of most powerful places in Orange County to represent this time of year. It is also a time for expressing gratitude for our native community who built the Mission.

For a bit of inspiration and reflection during this time, we invite you to experience our “Capistrano Lights Returns” programming throughout December. Upon arrival, each guest is given a special prayer candle—regardless of one’s faith tradition—to be placed in the ruins of the Great Stone Church in appreciation for another year, in anticipation of a new year, and in gratitude for loved ones.

We hope you’ll join us to see the landmark in lights with the large-scale nativity in the ruins and invite you to support local vendors such as Bakery 3:16 and San Juan’s AR Workshop providing sweet treats and crafts.  Enjoy hundreds of poinsettias provided by DM Color that add to the festive setting. There is a large-scale wreath for selfies or discover our new “Family Christmas Wreaths” sponsored by local families. Visitors will also enjoy the community Christmas trees representing the town’s nonprofit organizations. There will Dickens-era Christmas carolers and even Santa Claus.

The evening is highlighted by a stunning musical Christmas tree lighting in which guests are transfixed by the site’s beauty while being reminded of the solemnity of the season. The Mission will be open a little later than usual during Capistrano Lights, with the Serra Chapel offering an extended hour for our guests.

The Mission’s Christmas events always remind me to be grateful.

Grateful for a new day. Grateful to history and those who made it happen. Grateful to those who care and serve this place. In this, my 18th Christmas working here, I am especially grateful to Mr. Tony Moiso for interviewing me many years ago and giving me the chance to ensure that Mission San Juan Capistrano remains the singular most sacred place in Orange County, where the emotional, spiritual and religious value of the season can be appreciated by anyone with the mindset to do so.

On behalf of all who serve here, we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year.  We hope to find you here.

Mechelle Lawrence Adams is the executive director of Mission San Juan Capistrano. The Orange County native is a city planner-turned-nonprofit director with background in preservation, fundraising, economic development and marketing. Lawrence Adams has served on a variety of commissions, including the Orange County Historical Commission, and her team has been widely recognized for their leadership and impact in historic preservation benefiting California’s historic missions.

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