HUNDREDS of families united to remember loved ones at a ‘magical’ lakeside ceremony.
Crowds gathered around Canoe Lake in Southsea on Friday night as The Rowans Hospice staged its annual Lake of Lights service.
People floated tea lights out on to the water in a collective gesture to remember those they have lost.
Ruth White, chief executive of the palliative care charity, hailed the event as a great success.
She said: ‘It was a really wonderful evening. It is always poignant to see so many people coming together to remember those who are no longer here, especially during the festive season.
‘We had a fantastic turnout for this year’s event – even in the bitter cold – and the sight of so many lights and figures reflecting in the lake was just magical.’
Proceedings started around 5pm, when visitors were welcomed by hospice representatives and senior figures from Portsmouth City Council.
As the evening progressed, they enjoyed live carols and music, a glowing model boat display and took part in a collective moment of silence.
Among the crowds was Sheila Mackie, 62 from Eastney, who attended for the first time.
She said: ‘When you get to my age, there are always people you want to remember, that’s why I decided to go along.
‘It was a very moving service and all the lights around the lake looked absolutely beautiful.
‘I lost count of how many families were there, there were that many. I will definitely be going along next year.’
As lights were floated on to Canoe Lake by volunteers donning Father Christmas outfits, visitors were invited to make a contribution to The Rowans.
The charity collected nearly £20,000 in donations, including a £4,000 cheque from Portsmouth City Council.
Southsea councillor Linda Symes was there to present the cash alongside the Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Ken Ellcome.
Cllr Symes said: ‘As a council, we are proud to have donated more than £8,000 to The Rowans this year.
‘It was wonderful to see so many remembering friends and family at the Lake of Lights, which is a huge tribute to the charity’s work.’