The Waldensian Trail of Faith
VALDESE — The Waldensian Trail of Faith in Valdese will light up again this year in shining holiday splendor.
The annual “Lighting of the Trail” ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, at the Waldensian Trail of Faith located at 401 Church St. NW, Valdese.
The Trail of Lights features more than 100,000 LED bulbs fashioned into favorite Christmas scenes displayed throughout the outdoor museum. All of the scenes relate to the history of the Waldensian people, but the most important thing is that the displays are focused on Jesus, according to former NC Sen. Jim Jacumin, Trail of Faith founder and president.
Founded in 1993, the Trail of Faith portrays the history of the Waldensians dating back to the time of the biblical apostles, according to the museum’s website, waldensiantrailoffaith.org. The Waldensians were a pre-Reformation religious group who translated scripture into their own language. They were excommunicated in the 12th century by the pope and moved to the Cottian Alps between France and Italy, where they resided for many years and were under fierce persecution. A group of Waldensians immigrated to America and founded the town of Valdese in 1893
The Trail of Faith property features 15 buildings and monuments that detail the history of each phase in the Waldensians’ journey. The museum tour brings to life the struggles they faced, pays tribute to their sacrifices, and celebrates their successes and triumphs.
“The Waldensians were considered to be people who lived by Scripture and were tortured, exiled, and martyred, and still the faith that drove them from the Alpine Valleys of Italy to the foothills of North Carolina survived,” said Sheryl Tron, office manager at the Trail of Faith.
Volunteers at the Trail of Faith, also known as “trail friends,” begin testing the lights and setting up the Christmas scenes a month in advance to prepare for the lighting ceremony and nightly viewing. Tron said the event relies entirely on volunteers, and the ceremony would not be possible without their help.
The lighting ceremony on Nov. 21 will feature holiday music performances by students from the Morganton Day School in Morganton, led by teacher Amethyst Stark, and Marty Jacumin reading the biblical Christmas story.
“It’s important for us to share the Christmas story with the kids because the kids are what this event is really about,” Jim Jacumin said. “Children play an important role in Christmas, and it is important for us to pass on what we know.”
As in years past, three students will be chosen to turn on the lights at the end of the ceremony, marking the traditional lighting of the trail.
Guests at the lighting ceremony and nightly viewing are encouraged to stop by the visitor’s center to enjoy hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and other refreshments.
The Trail of Lights will be open 6-9 pm daily from the November lighting ceremony through Dec. 24. The visitor’s center will be closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day for concessions. There will be no lights on Christmas Day, but the lights will be on during Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
The Christmas display attracts a steady flow of traffic through the museum, generally averaging 40 to 50 vehicles a night to enjoy the lights display, Jacumin said.
“We love having families bring their children, walk the trail, and enjoy the Christmas carols and the hot drinks,” he said. “We have visitors that come all the way from Charlotte for our lighting ceremony and to see the Trail of Lights. Each year, we have between 7,000 and 8,000 visitors. The whole event really reminds us what Christmas is about, and that is giving to others. It enriches the building blocks of society, and it’s a joy to be able to give back — and that’s a big part of community.”
The Trail of Faith Inc. is a 501©(3) nonprofit group funded by donations from guests. There is no admission fee to the Christmas lights display, but the Trail of Faith will accept donations to help fund December’s utility bill.
For day-to-day announcements and possible weather-related changes in viewing the lights, check the “Waldensian Trail of Faith” Facebook page.
For information on the Christmas lights display, the lighting ceremony, or the Waldensian Trail of Faith, contact the trail office at 828-874-1893 or email@example.com or visit www.waldensiantrailoffaith.org.