Mission: The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic church dedicated to the patroness of our nation, is a place of worship, pilgrimage, evangelization and reconciliation. It offers visitors the occasion for a deepening conversion, a step forward in the journey to God, with Mary as the model for that journey. This monumental church, raised by Catholics of the United States because of their devotion to Mary the Mother of God, gives visibility to their faith and Catholic heritage. Mary’s Shrine invites people from across the country and beyond into the saving moment of faith, hope and charity, so that they may be reconciled and transformed into living symbols of Christ’s presence in the world. It is here that the faithful gather to worship God, give honor to Mary, and are sent to spread God’s word wherever they go.
It was January 6, and I aspired to go on my last of seven holiday-related Weekly Museum Visits. Since it appears easier to find Christmas events the day after Thanksgiving than the day after Christmas, I did some research. I found a small handful of museums, parks, and historic churches that continue holiday programming through what is known as (among other names) the Epiphany, La Befana, Three Kings Day, and Twelfth Night.
- Brookside Gardens will have its lights and trains on display through Sunday, January 8.
- Bull Run Regional Park will host Bull Run Festival of Lights through January 8 as well.
- At Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, visitors can see the Trains of Christmas all the way through Sunday, February 26.
- Mount Vernon stayed decorated for Christmas through Friday, January 6.
- Silver Spring B&O Railroad Station had its “Memories of the Station” exhibit open through January 6.
- The Walters Art Museum will hold a Three Kings Day celebration on Saturday, January 7.
- Washington National Cathedral exhibited creches through Friday, January 6.
Additionally, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was still seasonally decorated on January 6. I spent an hour and a half wandering the church by myself, choosing to forgo the guided tour. My primary objective was to not get in the way of people who were there as worshipers, not just as museum visitors. My secondary objective was to see everything I could.
How to describe the National Shrine? Breathtakingly gorgeous. The countless Christmas trees added their beauty, but the large domes and numerous smaller chapels would have been majestic at any time of year. Since this was a very temperate January 6, I also spent some time in the gardens.
Although there was little explanatory text to read, I (and my camera) interacted with the art: stained glass, mosaics, statuary, various Nativity scenes. Every time I thought I was finished touring, I found a new side chapel or staircase. I also saw a gingerbread replica of the National Shrine.
It is time to draw another enjoyable museum-filled holiday season to a close, to be resumed on November 25!