November 19, 2021

Experience fun and faith-filled history at Oldenburg’s Holidays Under the Spires

Spires of Holy Family Church and of the Sisters of St. Francis’ convent and chapels pierce the skyline of Oldenburg. (Photo courtesy of Holidays Under the Spires)

Spires of Holy Family Church and of the Sisters of St. Francis’ convent and chapels pierce the skyline of Oldenburg. (Photo courtesy of Holidays Under the Spires)

By Natalie Hoefer

Oldenburg—known as the Village of Spires—is beautiful to visit any time of year. The church spires, architecture and German-translated street signs herald the Deutsch roots of the town’s origins in 1817.

Add snow, lights, decorations, and German food and sweets, and the town becomes a portal to an old-world Bavarian Christmas experience.

This spirit is captured during Oldenburg’s annual Holidays Under the Spires event, which will take place this year on Dec. 4.

Stop by the Sisters of St. Francis’ Immaculate Conception convent for cookies, breads and gifts for purchase.

Stores—most opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.—will offer sales and raffles for items, and “pop-up” shops will appear on Water, Pearl and Main streets (Wasser, Perlen and Haupt Strassen). And look for Santa and his elves traversing the streets handing out treats to good boys and girls.

The town also boasts restaurants offering German and American fare, like homemade sausage patties at The Brau Haus and the “world famous” fried chicken at Wagner Village Inn, to name two.

After dinner and 5:30 p.m. Mass at historic Holy Family Church across from the Franciscan Sisters’ convent, enjoy the town’s festively lit streets on foot or by car.

The shopping, food and old-world feel make for a fun day for anyone. But for Catholics, there are extra treasures in the faith’s physical and spiritual influence on Oldenburg.

The Sisters of St. Francis arrived in 1851 from Austria to establish a new congregation to teach the German-speaking immigrant children in southeastern Indiana. They went on to create a convent and academy in Oldenburg, and helped found and staff Catholic schools throughout the Midwest, including Marian University in Indianapolis.

On the motherhouse grounds—which are free to explore—numerous structures are registered in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Among them are the convent, chapels and cemetery. Normally the convent is open for tours during Holidays Under the Spires, but the sisters cancelled tours this year out of an abundance of caution due to the pandemic.

Holy Family Church and cemetery across the street from the convent are also listed on the NRHP. The church for the 184-year-old parish was built in 1862, and many of the cemetery’s tombstones are engraved in German. The church will offer live Christmas music from 1-2:30 p.m. during the festival.

To print an Oldenburg walking tour brochure of all the historic sites in the town, go to cutt.ly/OldenburgWalkingTour.

The Holidays Under the Spires is enjoying its return from a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

This year, a few of the nearly 20-year-old event’s regularly-occurring activities—such as performances, tours of the sisters’ convent and a craft show in Holy Family’s gym—are cancelled in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with hopes to resume next year.

So, come to the festival for the fun of Holidays Under the Spires, but take time to appreciate the historic and living faith in Oldenburg.
 

(For more information on Holidays Under the Spires, go to holidaysunderthespires.com.)

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