Back in January of 1953, Eagle began a simple tradition that has weathered 61 years.
In Eagle, the Christmas season officially ends on Jan. 6 with the Twelfth Night bonfire at Town Park. Residents gather for the informal get-together — sipping hot chocolate and chatting with neighbors. Kids skate by the light of the fire that burns up discarded Christmas trees and the glow from the blaze can be seen from miles away.
Back on Jan. 8 1953, the Eagle Valley Enterprise noted “The ancient custom of burning the yule trees on the twelfth night following Christmas was observed in Eagle Tuesday night when around 100 adults and children gathered at the skating pond in southwest town to witness the burning of a huge pile of Christmas trees and enjoy skating on the town’s pond.”
Not much has changed, except that the bonfire location is no longer in southwest Eagle — not because it has moved but because the town has grown up around it. Town Park is now, decidedly in the middle of Eagle, not on the southern or western edge.
Dr. L.W. Simmons was credited with coming up with the 12th Night plan. No doubt Simmons would be tickled that his modest suggestion has weathered six decades. “Simons stated that he hoped the custom would be carried on next year and that plans would be made far enough in advance that more persons could participate,” noted the Enterprise back in 1953.
Through the years, the Eagle Lions Club members have been in charge of supplying hot chocolate for the bonfire and the Greater Eagle Fire Department has been called in to do the actual tree burning. Many locals recall how the late Don Price would organize skating contests during 12th Night and award quarters to the winners. Some years warm temperatures prevented skating, but the outlook is good for next Monday’s event.
All are welcome to attend. Christmas trees can be added to the pile that is already building at town park. The fire department will set the pile ablaze around 6 p.m. and festivities will continue until the bonfire burns to the ground.