Fresno neighborhood comes together to light thousands of luminaries on Christmas Eve

Every Christmas Eve, neighbors get together to line up paper bags filled with sand and votive candles in front of their homes.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's a tradition that has lit up a northwest Fresno neighborhood with luminaries for nearly four decades.

Every Christmas Eve, neighbors get together to line up paper bags filled with sand and votive candles in front of their homes.

It's also a time to catch up with families and their kids.

It's a tradition that started along Ellery Way and now stretches across entire blocks near Fruit and Bullard.

Rows and rows of small white paper bags lined up along several streets.

"The luminaries have spread to the streets around us and now we cross over Fruit into that neighborhood. We're going north and south. This year another street joined us. I don't have a total of how many streets but definitely people love the tradition and want to keep it alive and want to be a part of it," says organizer Michele Dodson.

Although restrictions brought on by COVID-19 have made the annual event a bit of a challenge, homeowners were not ready to cancel a tradition that dates back to 1981.

"Michele Dodson did an amazing job at organizing this COVID way this year. She actually walked the whole street and figured out how many bags every house needed and how much sand and how many candles and everyone went to her house and picked them up and everybody is on their own to do it on their own time," says Annika Fink, one homeowner.

They say it's a great way to get to know neighbors while sharing some holiday cheer.

For these neighbors, luminaries are a tradition similar to putting up Christmas lights.

Wagons, SUVs, and free manual labor are all used in the distribution.

"I think this year especially... people need some hope, they need some light, they need something beautiful. Even in a pandemic people can stay in their car and drive through it nice and slow, it's just beautiful," says Fink.

At 5 pm, the luminaries are lit and stay that way for several hours, giving families plenty of time to check out this holiday tradition.
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