Dec. 17, 1912 marked the first Christmas concert on Manitou, introducing the newly founded St. Olaf Choir and a brief sermon in light of the Christmas season. Now set weeks earlier, five choirs and the St. Olaf Orchestra lead Oles into the Christmas season.
Christmas Fest has evolved through the years, moving around campus from Hoyme Chapel to the former gymnasium, and has finally settled in Skoglund since 1967. A reading of the Gospels now replaces the sermon once read by the college president. Since 1924, the orchestra has become an integral addition to the choral performance.
The festival has endured times of war, Depression and disease. In 1916, St. Olaf closed early for Christmas break, when a case of scarlet fever infested the campus, canceling the festival's Sunday performance.
Since 1941, Christmas Fest culminates with "Beautiful Savior" as the recessional hymn, bringing a festive and reverent tone to campus and to Christmas.