Let There Be Luminarias!

Since 1994, luminarias have been a highlight of the holidays in our neighborhood, and this year is no exception. Thanks to the generosity of many neighbors, Arroyo Seco will once again glow with candlelight on December evenings a few days before and on Christmas. (In 2017, it’s Friday, December 22, through Monday, December 25.)

Brentwood neighbors started the luminaria project to celebrate the 1992 planting of more than 250 trees along Arroyo Seco and Hancock Creek between Koenig and Justin. (More about Hancock Creek here.) Lately, the project has continued north of Justin up to Crestview Shopping Center.

Volunteers are always welcome. Neighbors donate and gather milk jugs, candles, and sand, and then place, light, extinguish, and pick up the jugs after the lighting is over. Local neighborhood associations also have provided support for the project. (Updates and ways to help are posted locally on the Brentwood and Crestview email lists.)

In December 2014, the luminarias were dedicated in memory of Sidney Paschal Shelton and his wife, Billie Jean Wier Shelton, longtime Brentwood neighbors who died tragically on December 15. Family members, friends, and neighbors attended a ceremony honoring the Sheltons at the Brentwood Park pavilion before the lighting of the luminarias on December 21.

The continuing tradition of the luminarias is another reminder of how special our community is. Thanks to Michele Holt in Brentwood and Karen Lorenzini in Crestview for all their contributions to the project.

Here are a few more holiday stories about good neighbors here . . .

For many years since we moved here, Harold Loftis decorated his Crestview home with festive handcrafted bells for the holidays. I took a photo of them on Christmas Day in 2015 (right). When they didn’t appear shortly after Thanksgiving the next year, I sent him a thank-you note with the photo for all the years we had enjoyed the bells as we drove by. I’m glad I did. Harold, 88, died December 30, 2016. And, thanks to his family, the bells have returned for Christmas 2017!

Jan Root and Richard Chaffee remember going to downtown Austin during the holidays to see lights and decorations in the 60s. In the video clip below, Jan mentions Scarbrough’s department store, which was at 522 Congress Avenue, and Calcasieu Lumber Company. Both were longtime businesses and family-owned for many years.

Judy Carlson grew up in Center Point, a small town west of San Antonio. In the clip below, she describes how her family made their Christmas tree “sparkle,” since their home had no electricity.

Beverly Lester tells the story of a very special bike she wanted one Christmas.

Ben Petmecky was full of laughter and life when we first visited him in 2009, even though he was well into his 80s and had many health challenges. After our interview, he and his longtime partner occasionally called us to talk. Last Christmas Day 2010, Ben left us one final message. As always, he was in high spirits.

This is Ben Petmecky. We just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas, so keep it merry!

We interviewed Jan Root and Richard Chaffee on October 24, 2009; Judy and John Carlson on September 5, 2009 (Judy died in March 2015); Beverly Lester on February 9, 2008; and Ben Petmecky on May 24, 2009 (he died in October 2011).

Although I’m not Swedish or Lutheran, a favorite holiday event is the Lucia Procession, part of the annual Santa Lucia Celebration at Gethsemane Lutheran Church. The church was founded by Swedish immigrants in 1868 and today is in Georgian Acres, northeast of 183 and North Lamar. The “festival of lights” is held the Sunday before, after, or on St. Lucy’s Day, traditionally December 13—which in Sweden is the Winter Solstice and longest day of the year. The simple yet memorable procession begins at 5:30. A young woman chosen to represent Lucia (left) and wearing a crown of candles leads a procession of young people singing “Santa Lucia” and other songs in Swedish. At times, audience members sing along in Swedish.

To all our neighbors, have a light and merry holiday! And, stay tuned for more Voices of the Violet Crown.

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