ROSELAND, NJ - The history of the luminary is said to have begun in Mexico when people used small white bags filled with sand and a lit candle to light their way to Midnight Mass. Eventually, the practice spread to New Mexico and worked its way across the US. The custom started at least 30 years ago in the neighborhood section of Pitcairn Drive and Morgantine Drive in Roseland and continues to thrive as families on Christmas Eve line their streets with hundreds of the small candlelit bags.
Credit: Public domain
The Roseland Tradition
According to Linda Towey Krayton, the tradition here was originally started by Anne Knorr in the late 1970s. "Anne brought the idea from Carrollwood in Tampa, Florida where it was done every Christmas eve," Towey Krayton expalined. "The Knorr family lived on Pitcarin, it was the first house on the left from the corner."
The Schultz family, who moved out of the area a few years ago, were the second family to coordinate the luminary custom and they kept the tradition going for more than two decades. When the Schultz family sold their home to the Vidovich family, they described the neighborhood custom to the home buyers, but told them that there was no pressure to keep it going.
Mark Vidovich and his family had never experienced the Christmas Eve ritual before and were more than happy to keep up the tradition.
“Although I had never seen the luminary light display,” Vidovich expressed, “I could not bear to think of this quaint community tradition ending.”
The Vidovich family, along with the Nigro family who were also new to the neighborhood, took over the Shultz role and began to coordinate the luminary tradition for the development. The effort continues to be a success; on Christmas Eve many of the neighbors stroll down the winding streets to enjoy the spectacle and each other’s company.