Local luminarias to fill the valley with light this season

Connecting with others and coming together

[ by Mark Reaman ]

These are the shortest days of the year in the Rocky Mountains. On December 1 there will be just nine hours, 36 minutes of daylight. On the December 21 solstice, there will be a mere nine hours, 21 minutes of daylight. Throw in pandemic restrictions that limit human interaction, and anything that brings light and love to the valley is welcome.

The Gunnison Valley Resiliency Project is doing its part to help spread the light in these dark times and people are responding. The group recently sold more than 7,000 luminarias to people from Gunnison to Crested Butte to Mt. Crested Butte and places in between with the idea they will be lighted on December 21 and again on Christmas Eve. A luminaria, or farolito, is a small paper lantern that is of particular significance in New Mexico at Christmas time.

“I thought I would order 3,000 and figured that would be a grand number,” said Ginny Baylor of the Resiliency Project, who is also the city of Gunnison recreation coordinator and helping to organize this project. “When all is said and done we will have sold more than 7,500, with some folks choosing to make their own. That is a lot of luminarias. So many people have commented that ‘We did this growing up,’ or said that in such and such a place we always lit luminarias.

“People are yearning for ways to connect with others, to give and to show just how amazing the Gunnison Valley is,” Baylor continued. “This is just one way we can safely do it, and people eagerly jumped on our luminaria train!”

Local residents committed to buy any number of the luminarias that Baylor then ordered through Amazon. The kits were just $2 for 10 of them and strictly covered the cost. The goal was to keep the cost low so it would not inhibit anyone from purchasing a luminaria kit and giving to others.

Pick-up locations for the kits are in Crested Butte at the Four-way Stop on Thursday, December 3 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and in Gunnison at the I00F Park on Friday, December 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. Baylor said they will be delivering bigger orders or dropping them off for anyone who would prefer that due to COVID risk.

“They are literally a white lunch sack with sand and a tea candle. The sand is from the Gunnison City parks crew, who said we can have as much as we need,” Baylor explained. “The Parks and Rec staff is currently working diligently to get the ‘kits’ made up. We will send you on your way with everything in a box or two, depending on the box sizes. We will not be constructing them, considering the numbers we have sold—purchasers will be responsible to do that.”

The deeper idea is that people can write their gratitudes, blessings and/or wishes for 2021 on the luminarias, light them and enjoy the magical glow. “I have heard numerous stories from folks ordering them about how growing up they did this and entire neighborhoods would be lit up on Christmas Eve,” Baylor said.

“The general idea is connecting people, neighbors and our community using luminarias to share blessings, gratitude and support with one another,” continued Baylor. “GIVE LIGHT is a unique way to keep distanced, spread the love and light up our valley when we are unable to do the traditional ‘lighting’ ceremonies that our communities look forward to this year. Studies have proven that the most resilient communities are those that have strong connections with neighbors during crisis. Creating connections via the luminarias is an inspired way to unite with our neighbors, friends, families and valley.”

Baylor said this project, “like all of our Resilience Project efforts, is the result of the brilliant brains we all have that spitball ideas, mull them over and then act on the ones that resonate with us all. It was a collective group effort. It is a way to enjoy something as an entire valley—but to do so safely and separately. We are not raising any money. The cost of the luminarias strictly covers the cost of the supplies.”

While the project has never been done in the valley before, Baylor envisions it bringing the community together. “I could see cars with families driving around looking at the rows of luminarias and Christmas light decorations that spark pure joy—folks bundled up, walking around their neighborhood to see the glow of the luminarias and shouting ‘happy solstice’ and ‘happy holidays’ to their neighbors who have come out of their homes to look up and down their street lit with these luminarias. It is a way for light and love to celebrate and connect,” Baylor concluded.

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