crystal lake christmas eve luminaries

by | Dec 17, 2015 | midwestern words & images | 2 comments

We have gotten involved this year in an exciting event that promises to be breathtaking and beautiful.

Nicole’s across-the-street neighbor, Jill Augustine, is all about tradition. Her favorite day of the year is the day after Thanksgiving because it is the official start to the Christmas holiday season. There’s gathering of friends, the downtown Crystal Lake Christmas parade, and Jill is always always first in line for Santa after the parade. Nicole has picked up on this joyful spirit and participates in Jill’s tradition, by ending the night with the children watching The Polar Express so loudly her house shakes.

However, this year is the first year that Jill was not first in line for Santa because her children are growing up. Traditions are changing and although Jill knows that is nothing to cry about, her emotions just got caught up with sadness & sympathy for others who have much harder changes to face than being first in line. Sometimes you don’t realize how close you are as a community or neighbors.

Jill and Nicole started talking about lighting up their street with handmade paper bag luminaries. Back in 2010 they lit Melrose Lane, and they wanted to try lighting the street again. As they talked and texted with others nearby, the idea began to take a life of its own. Nicole started a Facebook group page, and more people joined and and helped to spread the word. We then decided to volunteer our business, C&O, to develop a webpage that would help to give directions and list participants. 

Crystal Lake Luminaries

Nicole’s photography from a few years ago provides the atmospheric backdrop for the site pages. The community continued to reach out and distributed flyers to try to include more who weren’t on social media.

2010 Melrose Lane Luminaries

The Augustine’s sent an open invitation to the facebook group, inviting everyone to an outdoor luminary assembly party. People brought their own supplies and gathered to toast the event and create luminaries together. There was a perfect fire and even a couch set out in the driveway. The style of the couch brought up the Santa Fe Luminaria and how that Southwestern community decorates their homes with creative patterns that go far beyond lighting a pathway.

It is hard to believe how many questions come up about a brown bag, sand and a candle. Who knew there were such a variety of bag sizes and candle burn time and on and on. One neighbor always has a lot of leaf bags during the fall season and his wife joked that their house could just do one huge leaf bag luminary. Another brand new neighbor just had a baby in November and it was her first outing since the birth. We found out many little things about each other, relaxing and working in a comfortable atmosphere.


Christmas is not in tinsel and lights and outward show. The secret lies in an inner glow. It’s lighting a fire inside the heart. Good will and joy a vital part. It’s higher thought and a greater plan. It’s glorious dream in the soul of man. ~Wilfred A. Peterson

We have learned some history along the way. Nicole talked to Rick Clark, who introduced himself as The Luminary Fairy. He was inspired by a spirited couple that lived on Lake Avenue just past the General Store. The couple would dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus and they would hand out candy during the holiday season. Nicole remembers from her childhood that this house was decorated to the hilt. Eventually the traffic became so bad that the city shut down the homeowners. So Rick wanted to do something spirited too. He would make 1000 luminaries and spread them around the area. He had a donation box in front of his house for the Crystal Lake Food Pantry. Rick Clark moved to Del Web in 2013.

Since Rick’s story, other stories have also come to light. Warren and Marianne Spencer were the Santa and Mrs. Claus that Rick remembers. Monique Butterfield informed us that she and her family have been lighting their street with luminaries for the past twenty years. Tim and MaryKay Lawrence moved to the area in 1977, and started lighting their luminaries shortly after that. There was even an article in the Northwest Herald about the luminaries on Riverside Drive. The stories keep coming, and we are trying to compile as many facts as we can about this magical event, that seems to have started in the 1970’s.

Light the Lake With Us began this year between two neighbors, hoping for a quiet way to spread peace and maybe give a moment of relief from one’s burdens. The holiday season is filled with messages of excitement and joy, yet many people struggle with stress, loss, and depression during this time of year. The word spread from lighting a few lanes in the Village of Lakewood, to lighting homes and streets along the entire lake. There have been recent requests regarding how to connect this event to a donation. We would love for this to grow into something with more layers of giving, following the tradition as it began years ago with a donation box for Crystal Lake Food Pantry.

2015 Google Map of Crystal Lake Luminaries

What is most interesting is how this spirit of giving has grown so quickly, providing a warm feeling of connection between neighbors old and new. Our wish is for a softly glowing Christmas Eve, paths of light, sending a message of peace and love to all. As one neighbor Doreen Orist said, “This is on purpose..Be the Light. I so love it.”


  1. Kathie Capdevielle

    Very beautiful and I would like to be part of this luminarie on Christmas Eve tradition. I’m not on Facebook though.

  2. Ellen Ebann

    I loved the luminary, and the braid. And, although I am not a “blog” person, I enjoyed reading yours. Hopefully next year, more people will ” live in the moment”, and all our streets can come alive with the magic of Christmas. Thank you for your efforts.


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Welcome to the Chelini & Oeffling creative blog, Life in This Moment, a window to life and work from Chicagoland artistic collaborators Nicole Chelini Ozment and Linda Oeffling. We work together in digital design, photography, dance, art glass, and more. Associate designer Nicole Rhino participates with concepts and copy editing. Click on the blog titles to leave comments, share and shop. We will never show or share your information. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest. lifeinthismoment


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