What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
Mine is watching “The Empire Strikes Back.”
What? Of course it’s a Christmas movie! Let’s be honest, this sci-fi movie classic has fueled childhood Christmas lists for 30 years (yeah, that makes me feel kinda old too). And the opening scenes on the snowy planet Hoth just put me in the mindset of a certain December day.
But I’m also the first to admit my holiday tradition isn’t exactly mainstream. Thankfully, Anchorage has five big traditions all its own this time of the year – and they might appeal to a broader audience, as well.
Gingerbread Village at Hotel Captain Cook
Pastry chef Joe Hickel put together his first winter scene in icing and gingerbread more than 35 years ago. Dubbed “Marina’s Village” in honor of his daughter, the winter scene has grown to Alaska-sized proportions. It now takes 800 pounds of icing, nearly 100 pounds of chocolate and days of meticulous work to craft the gingerbread village. It’s the centerpiece of the hotel’s fabulous holiday decorations, so go take a look at Hickel’s labor of love!
Join in some reindeer games
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. But do you recall, the most famous (Anchorage) reindeer of all? I’m not talking Rudolph, but Anchorage’s own Star the reindeer. Unlike Santa’s team, Star doesn’t just have a layover in our city for Christmas deliveries. She lives in a house just off Delaney Park near I Street. Why not pay her a visit? She takes regular walks around town, so she might just visit you too!
Holiday brights under the northern lights
Anchorage’s big tree stands proudly in Town Square Park, gussied up for the holidays. The Light Brigade, a talented group of artists and performers, is also putting together a piece with lights for downtown. Perhaps best known for their “Over Beyond Across Through” performance on the façade of the Anchorage Museum, the group plans to open “Follow the Light” on Dec. 20, in Elderberry Park. Part light sculpture, part performance venue – expect the unexpected. That’s not the only thing going on at Elderberry Park for the holidays…
The Alaska Association for Historic Preservation hosts Christmas observances at one of the oldest homes in Anchorage. Oscar Anderson was one of the first European residents of Anchorage, and holidays at his home pay homage to his home country, Sweden. It’s a great stop for anyone interested in the pioneer days of the city, or anyone who’d like Christmas with a little Scandinavian spice to it.
Sugarplums dance, and so does Spam
Local dance troupes, theatre groups and musicians churn out holiday cheer all month. Anchorage Ballet performs iconic routines from “The Nutcracker.” The Alaska Chamber Singers present a program of classic carols mixed with jazzier riffs during their show “Noel!” Three holiday specters attempt to spark Christmas joy in stingy Scrooge in Perseverance Theater’s telling of the classic Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol.” Anchorage Community Theater skips the traditional fare for “Christmas Belles” a comedy about three Texas sisters and a chaotic attempt to save a small town church Christmas program. And speaking of nontraditional traditions, Mr. Whitekeys and company duct tape “approximately three minutes of sentimental holiday fluff” onto their 12 productions of “Christmas in Spenard” at Tap Root.
We all have our traditions when the holidays come. Some have been passed down through the generations, some are happy accidents that eventually gain permanency. Some are classic, and some are created just for the pure fun of it. Mine just happens to include the Jedi.