Archive for Thursday, December 9, 2004

Children Light the Way Parade has its roots in German celebration

December 9, 2004

Rain dampened this year's Children Light the Way parade on Sunday, but it didn't dampen the memory of one of the parade's founders.

A couple years ago, a show on HGTV about Christmases around the world reminded Vicki Sperl of her St. Martin's Day experience in Germany in the early 1980s.

She recalled the band that serenade their village, and the dark bread that St. Martin gave to her children, but most of all she remembered parading around the village with lanterns.

The Sperl family's first holiday in Northern Germany in 1982 could have been lonely in an unfamiliar town with only three other American families nearby.

But their neighbors welcomed them to the community by sharing their unique tradition of making lanterns for St. Martin's Day, the holiday Germans celebrate to kick of the Carnival season.

In 2003, with the help of more than 10 local organizations, the Sperls helped begin a community tradition all Lansing's own.

Vicki Sperl wanted to share the German community event with the Lansing community. She presented the idea to local clubs and the mayor, and last year local clubs united to initiate the event tying it in with the Lansing Mayor's Christmas Tree lighting.

"I saw this as an opportunity to get all the community service groups to work together on one common project," Sperl said. "Now we have all these groups pulling together."

More than 10 local organizations including the Lansing Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, PRIDE Committee and Lansing Optimists all team up to cosponsor the event.

"I thought it might be nice to get more families and children out to the lighting ceremony and to really make it the kickoff of the Christmas season in Lansing," Vicki said.

For the second year, more than 50 children gathered for a magic show and lantern making at Lansing High School on Sunday. The rain made this year's event an indoor event, and despite efforts to get the word out, numbers were less than expected.

Rain this year prevented the children and their parents from marching from the high school to the Lansing Community Center for the Mayor's Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. Instead parents drove in a caravan to the community center and around 20 children and their glow-stick lit lanterns led the way to the 18th annual ceremony.

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