The loss of a loved one is tough, especially during the holiday season. However, a chance to honor and remember  them while sharing a little holiday spirit with others will occur at the Hillcrest Memorial Gardens when luminaries are placed on the headstones.

Dan Naegelin, manager of Claybar Cemeteries and Family Service Manager for Claybar Funeral Homes, is gearing up for the event on Dec. 1. It will start at 3:30 p.m. with a service and at 4:30 they will light the luminaries. More than 4,200 luminaires will light up the night sky.

“Please participate and help us light the candles for your loved ones and neighbors,” Naegelin said.

The luminary, which is a white bag, candle, candle holder and sand,  and a lighter will be provided. In addition, there will be refreshments as volunteers, workers and attendees share this special moment and take the time to talk about their loved ones who are at the cemetery.

“For some it is the roughest time of the year,” Naegelin said. “But, this will give them an opportunity for friendship and fellowship.”

Naegelin started making memories with the use of luminaries at cemeteries 25 years ago in Savannah, Georgia. He expanded to include a town near Gulfport, Miss. 12 years ago.

“When I pulled into this place, I knew it was a good place to do it,” he said.

After talking to Brown and Warren Claybar about the idea, they immediately looked at this as a way to compliment the annual Memories and Miracles program which is a program for Claybar Funeral Homes to give back to the communities who have help support the Claybar family for generations.

Naegelin hopes this will become an annual event. He thinks the candles will burn long into the night until after midnight when they will burn out. The next day, cemetery employees and volunteers will dispose of the luminary remains.

Volunteers are welcome to come at 8 a.m. Dec. 1 to make sure each of the gravesite has a luminary.

Roy McDonald, maintenance director. is engineering the process to make things go smoothly.

Naegelin says he has “no ulterior motive” to put the luminaries out, but the process gives him a chance to kick off the holiday season properly and from an emotional standpoint, just to “give back.”

“This is a way for us to get to know the many families that have loved ones in Hillcrest Memorial Gardens,” Naegelin said. “We look forward to seeing each of you as we help to make this Holiday Season special.”

In the event of bad or windy weather, an alternate date of December 8 has been scheduled.

For more information contact Hillcrest Memorial Gardens at 409-735-7145.