NUTLEY, NJ - Children on Edgar Place weren’t the only ones to experience the magic of Christmas Eve last year. Residents young and old witnessed the surprise of luminaries placed on their sidewalk, stretching end-to-end on both sides of the street. The lights burned safely for hours in their white paper bags, weighted down with sand. The effect was magical. It got everyone in the neighborhood talking to one another and primed everyone for a lovely Christmas Day.

It started a few weeks earlier at a small holiday party in my home. I enjoyed a conversation with Edgar Place resident and local business owner, John Griffith. We talked about growing up in Nutley with memories of simpler times, where neighbors all knew one another and became lifelong friends. Living in modern times in a mostly online community, It just doesn’t seem to happen as easily anymore. The idea of doing luminaries on Edgar Place was born! John enthusiastically challenged me to carry out the plan when he placed $60 on the table to just make it happen. From that, we started a new Christmas tradition to unite a Nutley neighborhood.

As the newly minted organizer of the Edgar Place luminary project, I counted the number of houses and estimated the number of white paper bags, candles and sand needed for each property. Along with my two teenage sons, James Mahar and Sean Mahar, we carried out the secret plan to the delight of the unsuspecting neighbors.

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This year, the neighbors are being brought in on the plan. I hand-delivered an invitation to each house in the neighborhood early in December. It’s an invitation for neighbors to gather a few days before Christmas for a simple, family-friendly holiday potluck dinner in my home. We will share food, drink and stories while children play. More importantly, we will become more familiar with one another, as neighbors should be.

With enlisted help of my dear friend and next door neighbor, Lara Carney, we got one hundred pounds of sand (okay, it’s cheap cat litter) and lined up fifty gift bags, two hundred and fifty white lunch bags and candles (five bags and five candles in each gift bag) in a production line and efficiently created ready-to-go luminary kits for distribution at the holiday party. We finished it off by tying the handles together with a festive ribbon. Before the end of the night of the holiday party, when we all hug like old friends and say good night, everyone will receive their luminary kit and instructions for lighting up our humble neighborhood with glorious luminaries.

At dusk on Christmas Eve, the neighbors will unite in the effort to create some Christmas magic outside our homes. Five plain white bags will be uniformly lined up on the sidewalk in front of each home. Each bag will have an even amount of sand to weight it down. Then a candle placed in the center of the sand is lit. The bag protects the candle from the wind and illuminates like a lantern! The no-drip tea light we are using is meant to burn for up to eight hours, giving Santa plenty of time to find us in the dark of night!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a bright light!


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