The Monument Lighting celebrates its 50th anniversary this week


The Monument Lighting is making a comeback after taking a year-long hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual event is a tradition in Baltimore, which marks the unofficial start of the holiday season. This year marks the lighting’s 50th anniversary.

It involves hanging thousands of Christmas lights – 8,400 to be exact – from the Washington Monument in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, starting at the monument’s base and going all the way up.

“Other cities can light a tree, but Baltimore has to do things its own way,” said Mike Evitts, senior vice president of communications for the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. “So, we light our monument, which by the way is older than the one in D.C.”

Because of the pandemic, the event was held virtually last year. But this year, organizers are getting ready to host the festivities in person once more.

The event is scheduled for Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. at Mount Vernon Place, located at 699 Washington Place.

As in years past, it will feature food, fireworks and live entertainment, which will include performances from DJ Impulse, Brandon Woody, the Baltimore School for the Arts, Rufus Roundtree and Da B’more Brass Factory, Zadia and the Morgan State University Choir.

“It’s just kind of a reason to come together and show how pretty the neighborhoods are,” one Mount Vernon resident said. “It’s pretty nice. You can see it from the Inner Harbor and all the way uptown.”

The monument, completed in 1829, serves as a centerpiece for Mount Vernon. Once the lights are switched on, the spectacle is visible from throughout the city.

Though organizers have gotten the tradition down to a science over the years, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, it originally began as a quiet gathering with a few neighbors.

“The Monument Lighting is really a grassroots event. Those were its origins,” Evitt said. “But it’s become this big spectacle because people enjoy it so much.”