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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- A Utah County cemetery opened to the public for the first time after dark this year to allow relatives to mourn their family members and place luminaries on their graves on Christmas Eve.
Provo city government decided to open the cemetery after being contacted by resident Rita Close, who had heard about the candle lighting tradition in Spanish Fork and Salem and wanted to start a similar event in Provo.
Close and her grandson, Brandon Allred of Heber City, brought several large red candles in glass vases to put on the graves of Close's son, Max Allred, and eight other relatives. "People always say the feelings will go away with time, but they don't," said Brandon Allred, who wept as he put candle on his father's grave. "It's tough having a loved one gone during the holidays."
Lynn Gleave came to the Provo cemetery alone to light a candle for his wife, Barbara, who passed away on September 9 of a blood clot. A stocking, a poem, electric lights and wreaths also decorated the grave.
"The grandkids wrote letters and drew pictures and we put them inside the stocking," he said. "My daughter wrote a poem."
Lighting a candle for his wife was important "because this was her season," he said. "This was her special time of year." He pauses as his eyes fill with tears.
"It helps," he said simply.
In addition to Provo, Spanish Fork and Salem, four other cities allowed residents to light candles in cemeteries on Christmas Eve, including Payson, Santaquin, Goshen and Springville.
The event was founded in Salem five years ago by Reta and Brent Tischner who have said they hope the event will spread to every cemetery in every city in Utah County.
At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Julie Ward and her family came to the Spanish Fork cemetery with candles in decorated glass jars.
At the grave of her husband, Allen Dredge Ward, Julie and her four daughters and two grandchildren lit two candles, and then Julie began to silently weep.
It was the second Christmas in a row Ward and her family had joined hundreds of other Spanish Fork residents in honoring their loved ones by placing lit candles on their graves on Christmas Eve, turning the cemetery into a flicking garden of tiny lights.
Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.harktheherald.com
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)