The Luminaria tradition emerged from the simple yet heartwarming gesture of neighbors gathering to create luminous pathways in their community on Christmas Eve. Originating with the assembly of paper bags filled with sand and a candle, these luminaries transformed the streets and driveways into a glowing spectacle, symbolizing unity and festive spirit.
Chris Landers, a resident of Oakland Park, has carried the luminaria tradition in her heart, rooted in the fond memories of childhood. The tradition held a special place in Chris’s nostalgia. Last year, in an article published by Living in Oakland Park, she expressed a deep desire to extend this cherished tradition to her current neighborhood, North Andrews Gardens, igniting the festive spirit among their neighbors.
However, Chris and her wife Rae harbored an even grander vision – they aspired to witness the entire City of Oakland Park aglow with the luminous warmth of the Christmas Eve tradition!
Guiding Light for Neighborhood Festivity
In early November, Chris Landers took the initiative to foster community spirit by creating the “Luminaries in Oakland Park” Facebook group. Designed exclusively for the residents of Oakland Park, the group serves as a collaborative space to discuss and organize plans for adorning their streets this time of the year.
Beyond her organizational efforts, Chris Landers goes the extra mile in the group by providing valuable guidance on luminary assembly, sharing insights on the best types, and even highlighting cost-effective deals she has discovered. Her dedication to the cause is evident, as she took proactive measures by leaving notes on everyone’s doors well in advance, ensuring that the entire neighborhood was informed and prepared for the luminous spectacle ahead. “If anyone didn’t want the luminaries in front of their house, they were welcome to contact me and I would respect their decision. No need to shame anyone into doing it”, Chris said.
Nobody has ever requested to not get the luminaries in front of their homes.
Fostering Community Generosity: A Heartwarming Response
The idea of illuminating Oakland Park with luminaries has resonated remarkably well within the community. Chris shares, “In the note we left on each person’s door, we stated that $5 per house would be appreciated if anyone wanted to pitch in, but that there was absolutely no expectation of it. I was surprised (and quite touched) that many people sent money and most of them sent double or more in order to help offset the costs for anyone who couldn’t afford it.”
This heartening response not only demonstrates the community’s enthusiasm for the luminaria tradition but also showcases the genuine kindness and generosity of its residents, reinforcing the idea that the spirit of togetherness transcends any financial considerations.
Guiding the Glow: Be a Block Captain!
In a call for engagement, Chris posted in the group an open invitation to residents eager to take on the role of “Block Captain” for their street or neighboring streets. Those interested are encouraged to nominate themselves by posting details specifying their residential street and perpendicular main streets. Landers explains, “We have six guaranteed people helping as Block Captains and probably another 4 or 5 people in our neighborhood who have said they will help us on Christmas Eve to put the luminaries down the street”.
Recognizing the collaborative spirit essential for the success of the luminaria tradition, Chris also appeals for volunteers willing to lend a hand on their street or any other. Within the group, members are not only encouraged to share the costs but also unite their efforts, ensuring a collaborative and efficient execution of the luminaria tradition.
Inspired by the impactful initiatives spearheaded by Chris Landers and her dedicated troop last year, resident Shel Ash took a proactive stance this year by becoming a block captain. Expressing her enthusiasm, she remarked, “When Chris mentioned extending the project throughout the neighborhood, I was excited to include our street as well. It gives me a sense of pride and community to have this special initiative in our neighborhood, and I hope it brings a spark of joy and peace to anybody who lives here or is passing through.”
Following in the footsteps of her mentor, Ash undertook the task of visiting each house on the block, ensuring that residents were well-informed about the initiative and had the chance to participate.
A Collective Holiday Splendor
The vision for the luminaria celebration is to have all the enchanting displays in place on Christmas Eve at dusk, transforming the streets of Oakland Park into luminous pathways that radiate warmth and holiday cheer. The community’s commitment to this festive tradition extends beyond the celebration itself, with a collective responsibility to ensure the cleanup on Christmas morning.
While the ideal scenario involves each resident taking charge of their luminaries, particularly those with battery-operated candles that can be reused in the following years, there is a shared understanding that cooperation enhances the overall success of the event.
The collaborative initiative to illuminate the cityscape on Christmas Eve not only deepens the bonds among residents but also etches a lasting impression on the collective identity of the neighborhood. Chris Landers encapsulates this sentiment by expressing, “Luminaries help to foster a feeling of happiness in many people. It brings neighbors together.”