The Qualicum Beach Legion Branch 76 cenotaph is illumnated by dozens of commemorative candles in the annual Candlelight Tribute, which returns this year the evening of Nov. 10. — Photo submitted by Lynn MacLean

Candles a silent tribute

Candlelight tribute started in the Netherlands in 1990s

The Qualicum Beach Legion will once again be placing candles at its cenotaph the night before Remembrance Day in solemn remembrance.

Qualicum Beach Legion Branch 76 will host its annual Candlelight Tribute Ceremony Friday, Nov. 10, at 4 p.m. at the legion’s cenotaph. The ceremony will include an address by Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek and branch president Don Taylor followed by the laying of candles, which will be assisted by local cadets.

The candles will be left overnight in solemn remembrance.

The Candlelight Tribute Ceremony started 22 years ago in the Netherlands, when a special ceremony was held to commemorate the country’s liberation by Canadian forces 50 years earlier, according to Veterans Affairs Canada.

Children placed lighted candles on the graves of Canadian soldiers, and the candles remained lit overnight in a silent tribute.

The Veterans Affairs Canada website states residents were drawn to the cemeteries by “the soft red glow of the candles burning in the dark,” adding candlelight tributes have now become annual ceremonies in the Netherlands and other European countries.

Westbroek, who is originally from the Netherlands, said he was in the country in 2015 during the 70th anniversary of the liberation. Westbroek said he was invited to visit Holten, home to the Holten Canadian War Cemetery.

“Holland turned that property over to Canada, so they’re actually buried in Canadian soil,” Westbroek said.

Westbroek said he brought Town of Qualicum Beach pins for the students who maintain the cemetery.

Membership co-ordinator Wilma Stevens was the one who got the candlelight ceremony started at the Qualicum Beach Legion. She said in the beginning, it was “99 per cent legion members who joined in on the ceremony,” but since then more people have begun to learn about the ceremony.

“It’s really quite heartwarming just to see how the community has joined in with us in the particular ceremony,” Stevens said. “It’s very simple, and I think that’s a nice thing that people like about it. It’s a very simple ceremony.”

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