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 the evenings of December 21-25.

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

One longtime neighborhood tradition ended in 2015. 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 so glad I did. Harold, 88, died December 30, 2016.

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

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 downtown 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, 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; Beverly Lester on February 9, 2008; and Ben Petmecky on May 24, 2009.

Although I’m not Swedish or Lutheran, one of my favorite celebrations of the holiday season is the Lucia Procession at Gethsemane Lutheran Church. The church, now in North Austin’s Georgian Acres neighborhood, was founded by Swedish immigrants in 1868. The procession is held on the Sunday closest to St. Lucy’s Day, which is traditionally celebrated on December 13. St. Lucy is often called the patron saint of light. In the simple yet memorable event, a young woman chosen to represent Lucia (left) and wearing a crown of candles leads a procession of young women, men, and children singing “Santa Lucia” and other songs in Swedish.

To all our neighbors, have a light and merry holiday!

And, stay tuned for more Voices of the Violet Crown.

This entry was posted in Events, People. Bookmark the permalink.