Christina Archer has many fond memories of the Leesburg Candelaria from her childhood and when her own children were young. Archer moved to Texas in the 90s, and, after a few especially cold and rainy winters, the tradition snuffed out.
When Archer moved back to Leesburg in 2010 she decided to revive the old holiday tradition. With the help of the the 4-H club and some church friends, the Candelaria has been going strong for the last four years.
“The first year it was pretty intense, but every year it been a little easier to organize and more people are coming,” says Archer. “It’s a joy to be able to do. I hope we can continue it for many years.”
On the night of the Candelaria, which was this past Saturday, paper lanterns line the streets of downtown Leesburg. The soft light of the candles reflected off the white snow illuminating the brick streets in the town.
Additionally, there was a small reception held at the town hall. Hot chocolate and cookies were served, and local musicians played a few Christmas tunes.
Santa Claus arrived, riding on a fire truck, and took Christmas wishes from the local boys and girls. It was a time of merriment for all in attendance.
“So many people enjoy it,” says Archer. “It really makes it Christmas.”
Nate Dolbee and his son, Justin, say they look forward to it every year since Archer brought the Candelaria back. “There’s nothing better: seeing the lights and coming to see Santa Claus,” says Dolbee.
“Growing up in Leesburg, we always had different Christmas celebrations,” says Archer. “Our downtown has changed. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep that spirit of community.”
“I hope it will make a Christmas memory for someone the way it has for me,” Archer says, beaming ear to ear.