British Columbia

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

People are invited to hang Christmas ornaments on memory trees at a Kelowna, B.C., cemetery to remember loved ones who have passed away.

'The ones I find most touching ... are left by children for a parent,' says cemetery manager

Cemetery manager, David Gatzke, says the memory trees allow people to "leave something behind and have some good thoughts" of a deceased loved one. (David Gatzke)

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.

Since 1998, people have been hanging Christmas ornaments on memory trees at Kelowna's Memorial Park Cemetery. (David 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."

Debbie Kitura hung an ornament in honour of her sister who died two years ago on Christmas Day. (Alya Ramadan/ CBC)

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.

Loved ones leave ornaments, many personalized, with names, photos or special messages. (David Gatzke)

To hear more on this story, click the link below.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South


Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email