Christmas trees at B.C. cemetery honour departed loved ones

Christmas trees at B.C. cemetery honour departed loved ones

Tucked in a Kelowna, B.C. cemetery are three trees covered in Christmas ornaments.

They look like any other Christmas tree, only these ones pay tribute to people who have died.

Every holiday season, since 1998, officials at the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery have invited people to hang ornaments on a tree, which it dubbed a 'tree of memories.'

"It's a chance to connect in the holiday with someone who is no longer with us," said David Gatzke, cemetery manager.

The tree is not necessarily for people who who have loved ones buried at Memorial Park. It's for anyone grieving someone they have lost. People visit from all over Canada to hang ornaments.

This year, instead of one large tree, three small ones serve as a meeting place for the public to leave mementos and take a moment to reflect.

Personalized messages

"No matter your background or beliefs, this time of year seems to have a strong emphasis on family," said Gatzke.

He says the ornaments are often personalized, some with names, photos or poems, and left by people from all over Canada.

"It's quite interesting the range of them and the messages that you see."

"The ones I find most touching ... are left by children for a parent who might have passed away."

'Have some good thoughts'

Kelowna resident Debbie Kitura has been hanging ornaments on the tree for the last two years. Her sister, Darlene Rhodes, died in 2015 on Christmas Day.

"This is our way of commemorating her death ... a way to acknowledge what happened," said Kitura.

"We're going to hang an ornament every year."

People are invited to hang ornaments between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT daily until January 4 at the cemetery located at 1991 Bernard Avenue.

"Leave something behind and have some good thoughts," said Gatze.

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With files from CBC's Daybreak South.