The spirit of Christmas will light up the darkness Sunday night as Benedict Castle celebrates its 20th annual Holiday of Light.
Since 1994, the sprawling Moorish mansion in Riverside has been lit with thousands of shimmering lights to celebrate the gifts of the season.
And every year, the residents of the castle - the men of Teen Challenge who are learning to live their lives again - work to ready the 10,000-square-foot castle for company.
The 2013 edition of A Castle Christmas, lit up with more than 200,000 lights, will feature a 6 p.m. open house and live Nativity production, as well as music, tours and food to benefit the Teen Challenge program.
According to Shirley Strzemieczny, event founder and 19-year Teen Challenge volunteer, a highlight of the evening is a live Nativity replicating the story with actors, several local singers and Christmas songs.
"This year will be really beautiful," she said. "There is a cast of 45 for the Nativity, including the Holy Family, shepherds, three kings, angels and live baby animals."
New last year was the Bethlehem scene, which once again will feature angels.
One angel will come down from the hill and sing "Oh Come Oh Come Emanuel" in Latin, according to Strzemieczny.
"It's going to be exciting and more than gorgeous - it will be breathtaking."
After each performance, visitors can take pictures with the actors. Music will be everywhere.
The Dickens Choir, the Gap Group from Redlands and the Teen Challenge Men's Choir will add to the festivities.
Music of the season will be played periodically on the original 1930 Kilgon pipe organ.
In addition, throughout the evening, there will be tours of the historic 1930 estate, a scaled-down replica of the Alhambra Castle in Granada, Spain.
Hot cider, hot chocolate, tacos and tamales will also be available.
Truly a feast for the senses.
Teen Challenge, a Christian-based residential drug-treatment program, has owned the castle since 1971, when it was purchased from the Servite Order of the Catholic Church.
Teen Challenge of Southern California is part of an international Christian program providing cost-free assistance to men and women with life-controlling problems.
This year, the nonprofit celebrates its 55th anniversary.
"We're encouraging everyone to come dressed in festive sweaters. It's a memorable way for the entire family to begin this very special season," Strzemieczny said.
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
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