My informant, from Kansas City Missouri, describes a Christmas tradition in his family: “So later on the day of Christmas Eve, my family helps organize a neighborhood tradition called Luminaria. I think the tradition is very Christian and comes from like Italy or Spain but we do it as a non-denominational neighborhood thing. Basically you light a bunch of candles and place them along the street on Christmas eve.”
“There’s probably a religious reason behind it that we’re unfamiliar with, but afterwards people walk around and look at the candles and it’s like a nice moment to talk to people and stuff. I think the Luminaria thing is just a source of coming together as a neighborhood for the holidays. Everyone helps and it’s a big neighborhood thing and people walk and talk and stuff. It has a sort of religious connotation but it’s kinda lost it for us and our area. I think it might be organized with other neighborhoods through a local church but our area is kinda disconnected from that.”
The informant is aware of the religious origins of the traditions, but does not perform the tradition for religious reasons. What matters about the tradition is not what it is meant to represent religiously, but what it represents to the community now: It’s a way of bringing people together and connecting the neighborhood through conversation and common activity.