What started decades ago but eventually fizzled out is to returning to Destrehan’s Ormond neighborhood this year.
Kay Spruill, who lives on Edgewood and served as a part of the Ormond Civic Association for years, said she and other Ormond residents started a Christmas Eve luminary display in the 1980s after a particularly difficult year.
“We started doing the luminaries one year when we flooded,” she said. “We just needed a lift. Everyone just bonded together … it was a group effort. It was a warm glow, and we needed that warm glow.”
Spruill said what started as a simple gesture of residents lining their driveways and sidewalks with luminaries to light the way for Santa Claus grew to be a treasured parish tradition for years.
“It was lovely,” she said. “It was a beautiful Christmas greeting to everyone who came to Ormond. There was bumper to bumper traffic.”
As residents moved away and the neighborhood continued to expand, Spruill said the tradition died out. Still, she added, there are some residents like herself who still put them out every year.
Ellen Windmann, who grew up in St. Rose and moved back to St. Charles Parish a few years ago after starting a family on her own, has fond memories of the Christmas Eve tradition.
“We attended the Methodist Church on the boulevard, and we would go there for the Christmas Eve mass and it was always a big deal for us to drive the boulevard and see the luminaries,” she said.
About a month ago Windmann posted on a neighborhood Facebook page about the luminary tradition to see if anyone was interested in bringing it back. Hundreds of Ormond residents – representing various streets in the neighborhood – responded that they would love to.
“I think everybody has gone through a crazy year and a lot of negative things, things like COVID and politics or a lot of people losing jobs and just a crazy tension in the air and I was sitting at home thinking there’s got to be something easy to do to bring joy to the community,” she said. “The luminaries just popped in my mind. They made me so happy as a kid and I can’t wait for my own kids to see it.”
Brian Tobin, who owns Anthony’s Ace Hardware at 1968 Ormond Blvd., volunteered his store to serve as a collection point for empty water and milk jugs in case residents needed any. He is also donating 3,000 battery operated tea lights to the effort.
Ormond resident Meggan Canale Murray said she is looking forward to the luminary display.
“We have had so many challenges in 2020 that have kept the community apart that this is a fantastic way for us to come together,” she said. “Traditions can fade away, but in times of trial we are reminded of how important they are … how important community and family are. With all the negativity of this year, I am so very much looking forward to driving down the boulevard and through the neighborhood to see how much community means to us all.”
Murray added that she is excited to show her kids what can happen when people work together.
“This is what a strong community looks like – when we all come together to create something beautiful for each other with something as simple as milk jugs,” she said. “You don’t need fancy decorations or tons of money to spread love and the joy of Christmas – just each other.”