Christmas Eve luminary tradition in Apollo Beach
Justin Matthews reports
APOLLO BEACH, Fla. – It wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without beautifully lit neighborhoods and in Apollo Beach, residents are marking nearly two decades of brightening up the streets with a centuries-old tradition from the Southwest United States.
Paul Ryan and his wife, Mary, have been bringing neighbors together on Christmas Eve for nearly 20 years – all gathering to light the way for one another.
This year, just like they have in years past, residents of Bunker View Drive lit 1,500 luminaries on Christmas Eve.
After lining the streets and drives with light, Ryan and his neighbors spend the evening fellowshipping among the candlelight.
“To me, it brings our neighborhood together, it’s unity, and I’ll tell you this, Santa knows where to go because this place is lit up big time with all the luminaries,” Ryan said.
The luminaries – also commonly referred to in Spanish as luminarias — are a tradition that dates back more than 300 years from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
According to the marketing and tourism organization Visit Albuquerque, the New Mexican tradition began when Spanish villages along the Rio Grande displayed them as a simple way to make a Christmas lantern.
The simple, yet stunning spectacle of candlelit paper bags illuminating a path was an idea sure to catch on, making its way across the country to the streets of Hillsborough County, 2,000 miles from its origin.
Now centuries-old tradition has new life and renewed appreciation.
“I really believe that, as a community, we need to come together. That’s Apollo Beach. That’s Florida. That’s the United States of America. We need to come together, be happy people, spiritual people, and love one another,” neighbor Terry Darga said.
His Christmas Eve tradition now includes lighting his luminaries and having a get-together in his driveway.
For him, the luminaries represent two important things:
“One is, it lights the way for Santa Claus to come tonight when he brings gifts for the kids. We’re a little older of a community, so not too many kiddies here, but additionally, I like to view it as, light the way for God to come into our lives tomorrow morning.”
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