SHARING HIGH COUNTRY HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

Skijoring was a popular high country pastime during Colorado’s early winters, as shown in this 1940’s photo from Steamboat Springs. Denver Library Digital Image.

Skijoring was a popular high country pastime during Colorado’s early winters, as shown in this 1940’s photo from Steamboat Springs. Denver Library Digital Image.

 
REGIONAL—(December 3, 2013) Ask Ginny Harrington of Carbondale about her favorite holiday traditions, and you just might hear the word “vinegar”—but the longtime community activist and ranch wife is not talking about planning a meal.
 
“I think Ouray has plenty of snow this year,” said Harrington, whose family heritage includes generations of ranching in Ouray County. “Vinegar Hill was our first Christmas tradition! The sledding up there is always great. My mother told me that they went sledding there often when they were young, because it was affordable and great family fun.”
 
Honoring tradition and finding ways to promote togetherness are what the season is all about for Harrington, who now lives on a ranch outside of Carbondale with her husband Tom.
 
“Even if you just get together with the kids and the family and make hand turkeys, you are doing something by hand,” she said. “My daughter makes homemade play dough handprints with her children, and making table decorations is a great family deal—they gather things from the yard, and get the kids to think about it.”
 
Heading outdoors to enjoy a hike or scavenger hunt can be very enjoyable as well, she said, and going around the table to ask everybody what they are thankful for is also a way to celebrate a Thanksgiving Meal.
 
“It’s about getting back to what you can do, and make,” Harrington said. “In our family we like to have scavenger hunts to look around the yard and find things, and plan some kind of craft. The kids really love to involve Grandma and Aunt Ruby.”
 
For the big holiday meals such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, favorite recipes include oyster dressing.
“Special dishes are the ones that mean something to you,” she said. “The Israel family used to make an oyster corn casserole for branding events that was so good…oyster dressing is a real favorite because you can add things like crumbled saltines and whipping cream…indulge! It’s the holidays! I use corn chips in mine, and I love cranberry relish. I can hardly wait each year for cranberries to come to the market! I have also canned a bunch of my homemade apple pie filling, and mom always makes extra pie crust so we can roll it out, sprinkle it with sugar and bake it.”
 
Even children can help in the kitchen if they are given the chance, she noted.
 
“If they have one dish that they have can put together and make by themselves, it can build appreciation for where their food comes from and what the land means to everyone,” she said. “Without farms, we couldn’t feed anybody!”
 
Family activities such as board games also make holidays special, she noted, and sharing with others is always important.
 
“We like to play ‘The Farming Game’ in our family,” Harrington said. “We got it in Montrose years ago, and it’s kind of fun because it’s so true to life! “
 
For Karen Byler, co-owner of Montrose’s Straw hat Farm Market store, holiday meals are about family and friends—not rushing out to the store for one last thing.
 
“We agree that we don’t have to give each other more than we have to offer,” she said. “We like to center things around family and a table of yummy food. For Thanksgiving, being thankful to God for all of our blessings is most important. And for Christmas, we need to remember why we have such a day, and keep the “Christ” in Christmas. “We want to focus on what a supreme gift he was to us.”
 
Embodying the message of the holiday can include reaching out to those who may not have friends or family close by, Harrington said.
 
“We should share the plenty we have with others,” she added, “so if there is a neighbor who has nobody, invite them over—and if you know someone who is housebound, take them a plate—make this a year to share in the Harvest and share the blessing. Give to the food bank!
 
“It’s about sharing and passing on traditions and ideas and being kind to everybody,” she said. “Love your neighbors, and stuff.”