Friday, December 18, 2009

Stroll among luminaries

Festival supports the Hunger Coalition

Express Staff Writer

Celebrating its fifth year, the Northridge Luminary Festival has quickly become a tradition on the Sunday before Christmas. This year, luminaries will be glowing in Northridge, Old Hailey, Curtis, Della View, Foxmoor and Deerfield neighborhoods in Hailey, as well as Chantrelle in Bellevue.

A luminary is a candle in a bag that glows for about eight hours and then is collected in the morning. The tradition was introduced to Mexican Indians by Spanish missionaries who lit paper lanterns for nine consecutive nights beginning Dec. 16. It was representational of lighting the way for Christ's birth and illumination of the spirit.

"I sell the luminaries at a dollar a bag," said festival organizer Lee Dabney. "Most households buy 20. The idea is to line the streets with lights."

Dabney said the idea came to her from her sister, who lives in Saratoga, N.Y. She said she saw the lights there and wanted to have them in her own neighborhood. For the first year, Dabney walked around her neighborhood with a backpack of luminaries and went to her neighbors, all but one of whom bought the lights.

"People get it and appreciate it," she said. "I think it's such a great idea because it's so simple but very beautiful."

Every year, the festival has expanded with more neighborhoods. This year, Dabney sold 7,000 lights. Eighty percent of the proceeds will go to the Hunger Coalition.

"The need at the Hunger Coalition is insane this year," Dabney said. "The Hunger Coalition can make money stretch far and target all the needs they have. When you look at every bag, that is money to feed our community."

Dabney said that although it's not high tech, walking around the neighborhoods is amazing. She hopes that one year the whole valley will do it together. For details, e-mail

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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