Luminaria 2011: Before the Lights


The neighborhood’s getting ready for tonight (“tonight” being this). Dozens of people over at our neighbor Betsey’s house, around the corner, getting luminaria bags and dispatching them via wagon and wheelbarrow all over the neighborhood. It’s still a surprising and amazing spectacle, even after seeing it year after year. (Pictured above: corner of Buena Avenue and California Street).

More later.

Some North Berkeley Flatlands Luminaria History

Berkeley Luminaria 2010

It’s almost that time again: Christmas Eve, the night of nights in our humble 99 percent neighborhood, where we express solidarity with all who celebrate light at this dark end of the year with–what? Paper bags, sand, and candles, also known as luminaria, luminaries, farolitos, and many other names that I am sure exist but have not yet come to my notice. Our one-night fete is the 24th, and this year will be the 20th time the neighbors here have gotten together to do this. Here are some posts from years past:

Berkeley Luminaria: 2010 Edition

‘Always on Christmas Night …’

Luminaria Rainout
Happy Last of the Year

Luminaria 2007

Luminaria Streets
Hot Xmas Eve Bag Action

Luminaria ’05: Pregame Report
Luminaria ’05: First-Half Action
Luminaria ’05: Second Half, Game Summary
Luminaria ’05: Maps

Blogging the Luminaria

Morning-After Disassembly Line


Berkeley Luminaria: 2010 Edition

Welcome to live coverage of the 19th Annual Holly Street Luminaria and Festival of Wonders.

No, I won’t keep that up for long. But it is the 19th year we’ve done the luminaria here. And unlike that first year (1992, for the historically minded), dozens of blocks surrounding us and many in other neighborhoods are having their own light celebrations tonight.

So, here’s a running account (below the slideshow):

[Christmas night: So much for the live blog. What happened was we set up our table in the driveway, as usual, to serve hot cider (and treats from many neighbors), and that was that. I spent the next three hours or so out there. Dozens of people came by, and we ladled up about three gallons of cider.

After that, I came inside and posted some pictures. And after that, we drove around North Berkeley with the Martinuccis, our long-ago co-conspirators in the luminaria game, to see where we might find them. We saw some as far north as Solano Avenue and Tulare Street, as far south as Ohlone Park at McGee and Grant streets, as far east as Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Vine Street, and as far west as Stannage Street between Hopkins and Page. The extreme northern and western points were not connected to our neighborhood, but someone out there has ideas about this.

When we were finished with the drive, a couple people in the van were nodding out. Kate and I came home, wrapped some presents while a Season Five episode of “Lost” played, then went to bed. This morning, there was nothing to do but pick up bags from the street, then go on with our holiday.]

6: 20 p.m. The first sign of the luminaria was reported this morning by Kate, who saw a block on California Street, around the corner from us, marked at 7 a.m. That was somebody getting a very early start. And tonight, bags are out and lit already on Cedar and California streets. Our street? Well, across the way, the Martinuccis and other neighbors are folding bags. We’re getting our cider ready, and have the table set up in the driveway. The sidewalks are marked.

Morning After


Before we get to the subject at hand, let me try out my innovative new (yes, both new and innovative) holiday greeting on you: Merry HannuKlausZaa. Call in or write with your comments.

Above: The morning-after paper bags. A few of them got a second night of life in front of our house and a couple others on the block. Most of them are going to recyclingland.

Beautiful day here. Sunny and 60, then cloudy and cool. That’s cool by local standards. North America to our north and east is another story. Wales, too. To wit, in the words of a story I’ve read often at this time of year:

“The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. … We returned home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled with bare red fingers in the wheel-rutted snow and cat-called after us, their voices fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay.”

“Fumbled with bare red fingers in the wheel-rutted snow.” That evokes a hundred dark winter afternoons. My hands hurt just reading it.

After the day here, night. One more walk with the dog before turning in. And so too in Wales, where that story ends:

“… And then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”

Very little music here tonight. A few carol verses from a couple across the street, a couple tunes on my iPod — that’s what Santa brought me — and that’s it. But the darkness is close and holy even without the blessing of song. ‘Night, all.

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