Historical Society revives holiday candle tradition

Nov 7, 2022

It’s all about candles and community this month! The Westchester/Playa Historical Society (WPHS) has been hosting Holiday Candle Making Workshops since September, and the final one of the season is being held mid-November. WPHS Board Member and community leader, Grant Francis, has been leading the activity and receiving rave reviews from the participants. During the 2.5 hour building session, attendees have been able to construct their very own nearly five-foot candle with a working light, which they then took home to paint red or blue. The candles will be displayed in their front yards, just in time for the holidays.

For the WPHS, the goal is to honor and resurrect the holiday candle tradition. Due to the community’s interest and feedback about wanting to make these nostalgic decorations, the historical society had the opportunity to host a creative fundraiser, which was totally sold out this year.

According to legend, the candle displays started in the 1950s by two men that lived on Chase Avenue who were inspired to build the candles thanks to the idea of a young paper delivery boy. They created candles for their neighbors that stood six-feet tall and, early on, their street became known as Candle Lane, which drew busloads of “tourists” to see the holiday wonderland. Over the years, the decorations spread far and wide throughout the community and were the pride of Westchester during the holidays. As part of the tradition, if you sold your house, the candle was supposed to stay at the same address. While there are a few of the original candles still put up each year on area streets, the WPHS is excited to help more than a dozen Westchester residents, some new and some longtime locals, have a chance to be part of the “candle club.”

If you’ve always wanted a holiday candle, but didn’t have a chance to participate this year, the historical society is holding a raffle giveaway for one lucky winner. The drawing will be held on December 5 at the WPHS board meeting. For more information, please contact cozetterotary5280@gmail.com. The winner will receive, in time for display this season, a red or blue candle and a fully assembled lighting kit. The WPHS will hold the fundraiser again in 2023.

To show off the candles and the handy skills of the workshop attendees, the WPHS and the Westchester Mental Health Guild will be collaborating for the Guild’s Third Annual Holiday Lights Tour taking place in December. Some of the candles will be included on the tour map so community members can admire the work of their fellow neighbors! The Holiday Lights Tour is the Guild’s winter fundraiser and the proceeds support the efforts of Airport Marina Counseling Service in its two-fold mission to provide affordable, community-based mental health services and to train mental health therapists.

If you would like more information or wish to support the Guild’s event, please email info@westchestermhg.org. Donations are tax-deductible.

The WPHS’ Discovery Center is located at 6207 W. 87th St. and is open Sunday mornings during the Westchester Farmers’ Market, or by appointment, through November 20. Come in and enjoy the current exhibit on maps. Thereafter, through the end of the year, the Discovery Center will be closed for renovation and will reopen in January 2023. In the new year, we will back offering small group tours and bookings for special events.

 As we head into the holiday season, I wish to acknowledge and thank the Westchester/Playa Historical Society board members and donors who make our existence possible. We are so thankful to our donors and have acknowledged each of them on our website.

Please visit wphistoricalsociety.org/support for more info and to support our organization.

By Cozette Vergari. Cozette is an attorney and lifelong resident of Westchester. She is the President of the Westchester/Playa Historical Society. Together with a group of dedicated volunteers, the organization is working on creating new programming and events to celebrate the history of the area and engage the community in preserving it for future generations.   

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