WCSF-FM to Celebrate 25th Anniversary of Spirit of Christmas

Sept. 11, 2018 | Joliet, Ill.

Each Thanksgiving, WCSF-FM 88.7, the official radio station of the University of St. Francis (USF), switches over from its regular program schedule of new, alternative, independent and local music, programmed and run by USF students to a special 24-hour, commercial-free, season-long holiday format known as the Spirit of Christmas. This year’s Spirit of Christmas is extra special as this Will County favorite celebrates 25 years on the airwaves.

Established in 1993 by Bob Zak, the Spirit of Christmas was ahead of its time, as season-long broadcasts of holiday music were not yet in existence.

“At the end of the fall semester, the radio station would shut down for a few weeks because students were finished with their coursework for that semester,” said current Spirit of Christmas Director of Programming Don Burke. “Bob wanted to experiment with a holiday format that ran from December 1st through December 26th and that continuously played a variety of Christmas songs. Within two days of the original launch, the station’s phones were constantly receiving calls about how much people loved the station and to make song requests.”

Fast-forward to today, the Spirit of Christmas now runs from Thanksgiving Day through January 2nd and features a rotation of over 4,000 songs, including multiple versions of holiday classics, like “White Christmas”.

“You won’t hear the same song by the same artist more than three times a day,” said Burke, who is celebrating his 20th year with the Spirit of Christmas. “While you will hear all the traditional songs you come to expect during the Christmas season, you are practically guaranteed to hear – every hour – songs you haven’t heard in years. This variety makes us very unique in comparison to the other seasonal programming found on the radio during the holidays.”

Burke added that the variety of songs and programs played during on Spirit of Christmas includes a broad rotation of genres, including religious, secular, humor, children’s and, of course, holiday favorites.

One program that plays each night at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. during the Spirit of Christmas is the classic 1937 radio series, “The Cinnamon Bear,” which tells the story of Judy and Jimmy Barton and their adventure to an enchanted world alongside Cinnamon Bear, a stuffed bear with button eyes and a green ribbon around his neck, to recover their missing silver star from their Christmas tree.

“We get calls and emails all the time from people who say they listened to ‘The Cinnamon Bear’ as children when it originally aired in the late ’30s or over the past 20-plus years during the Spirit of Christmas, and now they are listening to it with their own children or their own grandchildren. It’s just one example of how the Spirit of Christmas helps to create holiday traditions for families and across generations.”

Sponsorships of this year’s Spirit of Christmas are available and offer sponsors an opportunity to support education and the valuable service the University of St. Francis provides students and listeners in the Will County area. Sponsors are recognized during Spirit of Christmas programming. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, please visit stfrancis.edu/spirit/sponsor.

You can join the thousands of listeners who enjoy the Spirit of Christmas by tuning in to WCSF-FM 88.7 beginning at 12 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day through 12 p.m. on January 2, 2019. You can also livestream the Spirit of Christmas at stfrancis.edu/spirit.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves 4,100 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 49,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu. University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.