Luminaria is a time-honored holiday tradition, but it turns out their popularity varies by region! The Luminaria night just happens to be one of our favorite Jacksonville moments, so we are thrilled to be sharing a little bit of luminaria history and how you can make your own at home. Let’s start at the beginning…
What is luminaria? A luminaria is a Christmas lantern consisting of a votive candle set in a small paper bag weighted with sand and typically placed with others along a driveway, sidewalk, or rooftop as a holiday decoration. The “festival of lights” typically only happens one night during the holiday season. Luminarias (meaning “small bonfires” in Spanish) were originally used in Spanish culture to light the roads guiding people to Midnight Mass. The Roman Catholic Church believes the lights guide the spirit of Christ child to people’s homes.
In the communities of Riverside and Avondale in Jacksonville, Florida, this honored tradition also serves another purpose. The Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) has been the lead advocate and facilitator for Riverside Avondale’s historic neighborhoods since 1974. The annual Riverside Avondale Luminaria night is a major fundraiser for this non-profit group. In addition to this being a fundraiser for RAP, they also get volunteers to line their many parks and other public places. It simply is a beautiful sight to see!
Where do I get them? For those in Jacksonville, especially those in the Riverside Avondale neighborhoods, we’d be thrilled if you purchase your Luminaria kits directly from Riverside Avondale Preservation. Beginning in December, you can visit the RAP house to purchase your kits. RAP purchases 6-hour votive candles, meaning they stay lit the longest! Official RAP Luminaria Kits can only be purchased from RAP – don't be fooled by anyone else!
If you’re not located in Jacksonville, you can also purchase them online through LumaBase.
How do I make a Luminaria? You can also make your own luminaria at home! All you need is:
- Thin white short bags
- Clean sand (Tip: make sure your sand is dry! Your bag will not last with wet sand and it will make clean-up a pain.)
- Long-lasting votive candles (Tip: taller ones work best!)