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“Christmas in America”: Today’s featured digital object

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Detail of poster advertising the First Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony

On December first, the Pepperdine community once again launched the holiday season with a Christmas dinner and tree lighting ceremony on Joslyn Plaza. Over the years, the tree lighting ceremony has shifted locations around Seaver College, as this annual tradition receives periodic renewal. On November 29, 1980, an event billing itself as the “First Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony” brought over 200 observers from the Malibu community. The event centered on the lighting of a 25 foot Deodar Cedar recently donated by the Adamson family in conjunction with the Malibu Optimist Club. The Adamson family, important Malibu landowners, had donated the land for Seaver College back in 1968 and remained closely tied to the university. The name of the tree was “Christmas in America.”

The lighting ceremony included speeches, the singing of Christmas carols, and Santa Claus (courtesy of the Optimist Club), who handed out candy canes to the children at the event. This tree, which, when lit at night, was visible from the Pacific Coast Highway, retained its role as Pepperdine’s Christmas tree for sometime afterward. You can see photos from this inaugural tree lighting in our University Archives Photograph collection.

Christmas in America, 1980

Visitors to Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus can make their way to the northeast corner of the Phillips Theme Tower parking lot where “Christmas in America” still stands, although unadorned. The dedicatory plaque, still affixed to a nearby boulder, reads: “Presented to the community of Malibu in the spirit of peace and goodwill towards all, that fellowship and brotherly love be always in our hearts.”

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from Pepperdine Digital Collections!

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