The Annual Winter Solstice

Kaleva Luminary Tradition

The soft glow of dancing light is cast over the peaceful Kaleva Cemetery every year on the Winter Solstice. Since 1998, the community celebrates the Finnish tradition of lighting candles for those who have passed by placing luminaries next to each grave in the Maple Grove Township Cemetery in the village of Kaleva on December 21st (the shortest day of the year).  This event is reminiscent of the Finnish tradition of lighting candles on Christmas Eve for fallen friends or family. 

Community members begin arriving at 4pm to create over 1,000 luminaries by filling paper bags with sand and a candle.  Towing sleds filled with luminaries, people walk through the snow to distribute and light the candles.  Hands are warmed at a small warming station near one of the cemetery entrances.   

Following the lighting, people gather by the fire for a prayer and Christmas carols.  Bethany Lutheran Church also offers soup and bread to nourish the workers at 5:30 pm at the church.  As darkness falls, lines of cars begin driving down Kaleva Street and through the cemetery lanes to enjoy the beautiful, peaceful site.

 

For past articles about this event, visit our historical archive.
 

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Traditions Past

The soft glow of dancing light is cast over the peaceful Kaleva Cemetery once again this year; as the community comes out to celebrate the Finnish tradition of lighting candles for those who have passed. Luminaries, consisting of candles set aglow in translucent bags, are set out next to each grave, which is reminiscent of the Finnish tradition of lighting candles on Christmas Eve for fallen friends or family. “Our community started honoring this tradition around 1996,” says Cindy Asiala, KHS’s current president.

About fifty members of the community arrived on the shortest day of the year, or the Winter Solstice, to help set out about 1,000 luminaries.  “It was nice to see as many residents come out to see the luminaries as we did.” said Kaleva resident Aaron Desarmeaux who brought his boys to see the lights.  Kaleva resident Melvin “Red” Fennell also put together a small warming station for community members to gather and warm up during the festivities. Preceding the candle lighting, carols were sung, and a soup dinner was provided afterward at the Kaleva Lutheran Church. 

By, Megan Desarmeaux

KHS Public Relations

© 2019 by THE KALEVA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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Location:

Kaleva, Michigan