December 26, 2019. One of the wonderful ways that The Netherlands honours Allied soldiers who lost their lives during WWII and are buried in one of the War Cemeteries or in a municipal cemetery is to light candles by the graves on Christmas Eve. In some cemeteries children place the candles, in others adults place them.
During our visit to The Netherlands for the unveiling of the memorial panel for the crew of Halifax L9561, Pieter met Remko de Jong, one of the Dutch residents who attended the ceremonies. Remko lives in Makkum and coordinates the candle lighting ceremony in his village. Was Pieter aware that Canadians are buried in the Donia Church Cemetery in Makkum? he asked. “No” was the reply. Remko explained that he was looking for Canadian flags, like the ones we had placed by the graves of Canadians at Harlingen General Cemetery, for their Christmas Eve ceremony. Where could he get them?
After we had made all of our visits to the various cemeteries to place flags at the graves of Islanders, we had a few flags left over. Pieter mailed them to Remko for the Christmas Eve candle lighting ceremony. We thought no more of it, but sure enough, on Christmas Eve, a number of photos appeared, two of which are shown here……
At the Donia Church Cemetery in Makkum, candles were placed at the graves of all the war dead, including those of Dutch citizens who had lost their lives during the war.
In a very thoughtful gesture, Remko also contacted the organizers of the candle lighting ceremony at Harlingen General Cemetery and asked them for a photo of the candle placed at the grave of Flight Sgt Elmer Muttart.
The Christmas Eve candle lighting ceremony took place at over 400 cemeteries in The Netherlands, including the three Canadian War Cemeteries…..
There are over 7,600 Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands!
Kudos to the Dutch, who never forget the sacrifices made by Allied soldiers! For a listing of the Canadians buried in Harlingen General Cemetery, please see the earlier posting On The War Memorial Trail…..The Visit To Harlingen General Cemetery. To see accounts of our visit to the three Canadian War Cemeteries this fall, please see On The War Memorial Trail…..Our 2019 Visit To The Canadian War Cemetery In Holten,On The War Memorial Trail…..Our 2019 Visit To The Canadian War Cemetery In Groesbeek, andOn The War Memorial Trail…..Our 2019 Visit To The Canadian War Cemetery In Bergen Op Zoom)
Our thanks again to the office of Malpeque MP Wayne Easter and the office of PEI Senator Mike Duffy who provided the flags used during our trip to The Netherlands, making it possible to also give flags for the candle lighting ceremony at the cemetery in Makkum. If anyone has a story or photo to share about any of the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, please contact Pieter at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on the blog.
© Daria Valkenburg
3 thoughts on “The Christmas Eve Candle Lighting Ceremonies In The Netherlands”
Hello Pieter and Daria. Thank you so very much for these kind words. This is the least we can do to those who have given the most, namely their lives. And I will continue this for years to come. So that they are not forgotten. Remko de Jong
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