A luminous tradition lights up Christmas Eve

The Fresno BeeDecember 23, 2013 

A neighborhoodwide display of thousands of luminarias begins at sundown tonight in northwest Fresno.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS — FRESNO BEE FILE Buy Photo

The holiday lights around Dolores Monahan's northwest Fresno neighborhood are quaint compared to the twinkling wonderland that is Christmas Tree Lane or the massive light explosion of Clovis' Cindy Lane.

But for more than 30 years, residents of the neighborhood — bordered by Fruit, West, Sierra and Bullard avenues — have lined the sidewalks, driveways and medians with luminarias lanterns.

It's a Christmas Eve tradition.

The effect is simple and powerful, says Monahan, who started the tradition on her block in 1981.

As a bonus, PG&E isn't involved, she says.

The paper lanterns are weighted with sand and illuminated by votive candles. It is a popular holiday tradition in southwest states like New Mexico. Typically, the lanterns are laid out in rows to create large, elaborate displays.

In Christian religions, the lanterns are left to guide the spirit of the Christ child to one's home.

Monahan picked up the tradition from her mother and has set out luminarias in every neighborhood she's lived. There are artificial luminarias that have strings of lights set in plastic bags, but Monahan still does it the old-fashioned way.

She has never counted the number of houses that take part in the lighting each year, and she says different parts of the community organize in different ways. She estimates the number to be in the hundreds. She does know there can be more than 1,000 candles burning on her street alone.

The candles will be lit at sundown Christmas Eve and will burn through the night. A full list of Fresno-area holiday displays, with photo galleries, a video and map, is available at fresnobee.com.

 

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6479, jtehee@fresnobee.com or @joshuatehee on Instagram and Twitter. Read his blog at Fresnobeehive.com.

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