Eagle County holidays: From around the globe to our own back yard | VailDaily.com

Eagle County holidays: From around the globe to our own back yard

Jasmine Listou Bible
Special to the Daily
Families get together at the base of Gondola one on Sunday for a photograph with Santa and all of the amazing homemade lanterns designed by children of the valley.
Charles Townsend Bessent | Townsend@vaildaily.com |

Family traditions can be a wonderful reminder that the holidays are more than presents and sparkling lights. The memories made and the experiences passed down from generation to generation are a gift in and of themselves. Some of these traditions have cultural roots or religious meaning, while some are the creation of creative parents or ad agencies.

Here, we take a spin around the globe to find out more about the holiday traditions in other parts of world and come back home to hear about the favorite family traditions of several mountain residents.

AROUND THE WORLD

In Ecuador, one of the largest celebrations of the year comes at the end of the year on New Year’s Eve. At the stroke of midnight, effigies are lit on fire to cleanse the “ano viejo,” or “old year,” and welcome the new year. The cleansing is said to remove the bad from the previous 12 months, and some choose to jump over the flame of burning effigy 12 times. The effigies were once simple straw, stuffed men and have evolved to depictions of politicians, pop culture icons and notable people from the previous year.

In Japan, Christmas is not a widely celebrated holiday, but thanks to an incredibly effective marketing campaign by Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1974, Dec. 25 is celebrated for its chicken. In the ’70s, the folks at KFC launched their “Christmas Chicken” ad campaign, encouraging the Japanese to enjoy a Christmas meal of chicken and wine. The meal now contains chicken, cake and champagne and is eagerly anticipated.

Christmas occurs during the summer months in Argentina, but that doesn’t stop them from placing cotton balls on their Christmas trees to depict snow. In this predominantly Catholic country, the day is celebrated with both reverence and fun. Christmas Eve dinner consists of barbecue and bread puddings and is followed by fireworks at midnight.

In the Czech Republic, there’s a superstition for single women regarding their relationship status. On Christmas Day, a single woman stands outside, facing away from the house, and throws one shoe over her shoulder, toward the front door. If it lands with the toe pointing toward the door, she will be married within the year.

In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, going to early morning mass between Dec. 16 and Dec. 24 is a bit exhilarating, as you’ll be heading to church on roller skates. So many people participate in this tradition that the roads are closed in the mornings for these nine days to keep skaters safe.

In Italy, Christmas celebrations begin on Dec. 8, the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, and continue through Jan. 6, the Epiphany. The nativity crib is an important part of the traditional decor, dating back to 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi was said to have visited Bethlehem and seen the stable in which Christ was born. Today, the city of Naples is famous for its “Presepe Napoletano,” or Neapolitan Cribs.

PERSONAL TRADITION

For my family, growing up in Evergreen, the Christmas season began on Thanksgiving Day. We would begin the morning with a generous slice of my stepmom’s homemade pumpkin chiffon pie. Bellies full of spicy goodness, we’d bundle up in winter gear and hiking boots and trek out our back door — tape measure, saw and twine in-hand. We’d trudge over the hills and deep into the woods in search of the perfect tree.

Blue spruce were always off limits, and sparse trees were glanced past. Once the winner was found, we’d take turns with the hacksaw until the beauty fell, wrap her up in twine, heft her onto my father’s shoulder and begin the journey back home. We’d arrive just as the turkey was finished cooking and friends began to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. After one of my father’s perfectly prepared dinners, we’d haul in the Christmas tree, set it up and begin decorating for the Christmas season.