BILLINGS — Honoring a young boy that tragically lost his life there's a longstanding Christmas Eve tradition that involves lighting lanterns and lining the streets around the neighborhood of Mariposa in Billings. It's lasted over 60 years and shows no signs of slowing down.
"It started in 1961 with a little boy who was riding his bicycle on a December day and got hit by vehicle. He was from Albuquerque, Bobby Switzer was his name, and this is something that they did in Albuquerque. They would put out luminaries and then they moved up here, to Billings, and he started it then. And then a year later he got hit by vehicle. So, his friends decided that they wanted to keep doing it so, 61 years later, here we are, we’re still doing it," said Brandon Bertrand, Mariposa Lane resident on Saturday.
When he passed, his friends and family kept the tradition alive and now the whole neighborhood does.
"We light the candles at dusk and from dusk on, it's just amazing," added Bertrand.
During a season steeped in tradition the streets are lined with paper bags with candles in them. All the way down Mariposa, back down on Hoover Ave. and back down South Mariposa.
The set up for some, starts early Christmas Eve morning, but as the daylight fades, the neighborhood begins to transform. Bertrand says it’s a sight to behold and, in many cases, it becomes an all-night event.
"If it’s a nice night and they’re all lit all night, we have cars all the way up to four or five in the morning, it's crazy," Bertrand added.
When asked if the tradition that’s been going on for 61 years will continue to stand the test of time, Bertrand had no doubt.
"One of my neighbors said, 'It’s a tradition and traditions keep going.' So, I thought, well, that’s all I need to know right there. So, as long as I’m here, the tradition will continue, and we’ll keep going," Bertrand said.
A tradition in the memory of a young boy who has unintentionally kept a neighborhood connected long after his passing.
"It’s just a time for everybody to come together, say their hi’s while they’re getting their stuff and keep their tradition what it is, a tradition, and keep it going," Bertrand said.