Kaleva, Michigan 

Historical Society News

Kaleva Luminary Tradition
December 21, 2014 

The soft glow of dancing light is cast over the peaceful Kaleva Cemetery once again this year; as the community comes out to celebrate the Finnish tradition of lighting candles for those who have passed. Luminaries, consisting of candles set aglow in translucent bags, are set out next to each grave, which is reminiscent of the Finnish tradition of lighting candles on Christmas Eve for fallen friends or family. “Our community started honoring this tradition around 1996” says Cindy Asiala, KHS’s current president.

About fifty members of the community arrived on the shortest day of the year, or the Winter Solstice, to help set out about 1,000 luminaries.  “It was nice to see as many residents come out to see the luminaries as we did.” said Kaleva resident Aaron Desarmeaux who brought his boys to see the lights.  Kaleva resident Melvin “Red” Fennell also put together a small warming station for community members to gather and warm up during the festivities. Preceding the candle lighting, carols were sung, and a soup dinner was provided afterward at the Kaleva Lutheran Church.

By, Megan Desarmeaux

KHS Public Relations




The Bottle House Museum Holiday Open House

December 7, 2014

The world famous Bottle House Museum smells like home as local residents join together to commemorate the historical nostalgia that is the Finnish village of Kaleva for its annual Christmas Open House on Sunday. Traditional Finnish relics adorn the house “first built by John Makinen who settled the area after entering the country through Ellis Island”, according to his grandson Gary Makinen. A Finnish Heaven, a wooden piece threaded with evergreen branches and adorned with child-crafted silver stars, floats above a Christmas tree donated by local resident Art Hulkonen. Handcrafted traditional ornaments made by resident Bev Fennell, sit in a basket labeled “Thank-you Gifts for our Docents”: which means “volunteers" is given to each that come to the Bottle House Museum to donate their time, artifacts and local history, states Cindy Asiala, the Kaleva Historical Society’s current President.  

As the museum has grown, since first being established around 1980, residents bring in historical pieces that adorn the walls, rooms and exhibits that are set up throughout the 3 story house, made of over 60,000 bottles.“It’s such a treasure to see new artifacts every time I come here” states Beth Harju, a local resident whose family also immigrated from Finland in 1902. Harju’s interest in genealogy inspired her book entitled No Greater Gift, published in October, chronicles the life of her mother Violet Doreen Harju who arrived in 1947 and also was president of KHS for 7 years, and helped cultivate the museum’s development. Although the Museum does not open again until May, it’s historical significance lives on in the hearts of Kaleva’s residents even through the bitter cold months.

Written by: Megan Desarmeaux 
                     KHS Public Relations

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