Luminarias to shine once again on East Third Avenue

It takes a village to light Christmas Eve

East Third Avenue will shine late into the night Christmas Eve as the neighborhood will light 1,200 luminarias to celebrate the holiday. The display should extend from Second Street to 15th Street. Last year, children from the neighborhood and others visiting from as far away as Florida helped keep the luminarias burning bright. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald file photo

East Third Avenue will shine late into the night Christmas Eve as the neighborhood will light 1,200 luminarias to celebrate the holiday. The display should extend from Second Street to 15th Street. Last year, children from the neighborhood and others visiting from as far away as Florida helped keep the luminarias burning bright.

Like an old Christmas tree ornament that got lost in the attic, a local holiday tradition has been revived and should be twinkling brightly this year.

On Christmas Eve, 1,200 luminarias will line the median of East Third Avenue from Second Street all the way to “Malfunction Junction,” where the boulevard connects with Florida Road.

The candles, placed in brown paper lunch bags weighted down with sand, are supposed to last for 10 hours.

“We hope they will burn late into the night,” said Graham Stahnke, a co-chairman of the luminaria display along with Libby Culver of the Third Avenue Boulevard Neighborhood Association.

As festive as this sounds, the tradition fell out of practice for a couple of years, a victim of holiday exhaustion.

“The same people had always done the work. I think they got kind of tired,” Culver said. “When you don’t do something for a couple of years, people miss it. They go, ‘Yeah, it was worth the work.’”

Last year, Nick Anesi, who had helped with the luminaria setup as a child, revived the tradition “on a whim” and organized a luminaria display after it had been on hiatus for the last few Christmases.

This year, the Boulevard Association decided to put its organization behind the effort. It soon was gratified by support from the community at large. South City Market donated the lunch sacks. Kroegers Ace Hardware offered the lighters. Sandco Inc. gave the sand.

A “secret Santa” who does not live on East Third Avenue donated about $400 to pay for candles, Stahnke said.

“It shows you how great the community is that everybody stepped up,” he said.

Because this tradition takes a village, the public is encouraged to show up on the median about 3 p.m. Monday to help with the setup. Each block will have a captain to direct the filling and placement of the luminarias.

Each block is supposed to have 85 candles, each placed 3 feet apart.

The candles will be lit at 5 p.m., Culver said.

“Thankfully, with all the snow, we won’t start the median on fire,” Stahnke joked.

The cleanup on Christmas Day often is the hardest job.

“We’re hoping it does not snow a lot on Christmas Eve night,” Culver said. “(The luminarias) will get covered up, and it’s hard to dig them out.”

But then the spirit of the season usually comes to the rescue.

“Lots of people will be driving by and will stop to help out (with the cleanup),” Culver said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com