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61st anniversary of Billings’ Lanterns on Mariposa



Billings, Montana – A long-standing Christmas Eve custom in Billings involves hanging lanterns and lining the streets around the Mariposa area in memory of a young boy who sadly lost his life. It has been going strong for more than 60 years with no indication of stopping.

“It started in 1961 with a little boy who was riding his bicycle on a December day and got hit by a 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 a 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.

After he passed away, his family and friends continued the custom, and now everyone in the neighborhood does.

“We light the candles at dusk and from dusk on, it’s just amazing,” added Bertrand.

Paper bags with candles inside adorn the streets at this traditionally rich time of year. All the way down Mariposa, then turn around and head back along Hoover Avenue and South Mariposa.

For some, Christmas Eve preparations begin early in the morning, but as the light goes on, the neighborhood starts to change. According to Bertrand, it’s a sight to behold and frequently turns into an all-night affair.

“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.

Bertrand has no doubts about the 61-year-old tradition’s ability to endure the test of time when asked about it.

“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 custom established in honor of a young kid who accidentally helped to maintain local ties long after his death.

“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.