Candles from the past are still burning bright in Westchester

As we move into the holiday season, we cherish many memories from the past, memories shared with family and friends that remain in our hearts and in our minds. They are a part of our family and community histories and traditions. One such memory and Westchester tradition, which included both family and friends within the community, is that of the giant red candles that decorated the front yards of neighborhoods throughout Westchester.

A Westchester home displays candles in the front yard in this photo courtesy of the Westchester/Playa Historical Society.

The giant red candles, for the most part, stood approximately six feet tall, lit as if their candle wicks were burning, with white wax flowing over the edge. Displayed next to the bottom of the candle was the name of the family who resided in the home, with a spotlight illuminating the giant red candle well into the holiday nights. Some shorter candles were displayed, as though they had burned down over time. There were blocks and blocks, where nearly every home displayed a giant red candle during the holiday season.

Legend holds that in the 1950s two men who lived on Chase Avenue, inspired by the idea of a young paper delivery boy, created the giant red candles for their neighbors, early on known as Candle Lane. The candles became so popular, they spread east, west, north and south, creating a holiday wonderland of giant red candles throughout Westchester and parts of Playa del Rey. It grew to be such an attraction that buses brought “tourists” from outlying communities to share in the holiday spirit and wonder. It was truly a winter wonderland. I am proud to say that my family joined in this wonderful holiday tradition for years.

The Westchester/Playa Historical Society now has plans to recreate and bring back the opportunity to join in a community tradition from the past. There are still some remaining candles displayed throughout our neighborhood that continue the tradition during the holidays, but many new families are interested in joining in the fun. We hope to have holiday candle kits available in the early fall of 2022, for the December 2022 holiday season.

Photo caption: Lisa Hamor was born and raised in Westchester, and loved seeing the giant red candles displayed throughout the community when she was growing up. Always wanting a candle of her own to put in her yard, she got lucky while driving through the neighborhood sometime in the 90s and found one in a trash can! It needed a little TLC, so her husband spruced it up, created a sign to display their family name, and some 30 years later, the candle is still an important part of their Christmas celebration. Hamor proudly displays the candle in her yard every December, showcasing her Westchester pride and the nostalgia for the neighborhood tradition.

In the meantime, please save the date for the first major exhibit at the Westchester/Playa Historical Society Discovery Center, located 6207 W. 87th Street in Westchester, which opens in January.

“Aviation” will open to the public on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., starting Sunday, January 9 and will run through Sunday, March 6. There will be several interactive opportunities, including a group art project.

Stay tuned for details in next month’s article. In February, we will continue our time machine travels!

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.

By Cozette Vergari.

Posted December 2021.