December 14, 2011 at 5:04 PM
Lighting Up Christmas in New Mexico
"These delicate little beauties bring warmth to the coldest night"
By Liz Simon
Trips & Quips
Liz Simon is a photographer, writer and cyclist who likes to combine the three in her quest to discover the nooks and crannies of New Mexico. Sometimes, means of transportation other than bicycle are employed---including the Rail Runner and motorcycle.
I have always been fascinated by anything to do with Christmas---particularly the brown-bag lights of this marvelous celebration, filled with sand and a single candle. These delicate little beauties bring warmth to the coldest night. Just walk around Santa Fe at night this time of year. You’ll get the feeling.
When I moved to Santa Fe, I was introduced to the tradition of decorating with farolitos. Another word for farolito, and the one with which I was familiar, is “luminaria”. This , however, is not the preferred name in northern New Mexico. Stick with “farolito.” You’ll be much more in line with the traditions of the region. I have since learned that farolitos are closely related to the holiday of Las Posadas (a Spanish word meaning lodging or inn). This holiday is a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. The farolitos, set on walkways and rooftops, serve to guide travelers to their destinations. Some Roman Catholics believe that the light from the farolitos will guide the spirit of the Christ child to their dwelling. What a lovely tradition.
I set out with my camera on the night of December 12 to find interesting settings of farolitos in Santa Fe. I think I found some nice shots for you, but best of all, I just happened to come across a candle-light, and farolito-light, procession leaving from St. Francis Cathedral, attended by a couple hundred people. This is the kind of cultural richesse that I love about this city and state. There was singing and a festive mood, with guitar players out in front singing in Spanish. And, I am proud to say, that I was able to understand some of it.
I learned from someone in the crowd that this was the celebration of “Our Lady of Guadalupe." Similar processions were taking place all over the country, and always on the same date, December 12. The procession commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to an impoverished Indian (Juan Diego) in 1531.
Do not miss Santa Fe’s own celebration of the farolito along Canyon Road and surrounding neighborhoods on Christmas Eve. Many businesses will be open and serving what we in the East would call “Wassail”---generally any kind of warm beverage associated with the Christmas season---usually though, a mulled cider.
City streets will be blocked off, and the walk begins around 5 p.m. It’s recommended to get there early to find parking. I’ve taken this walk in past years, and you will not be disappointed. It’s magical. Dress warmly and enjoy.
Happy Holidays to all and, as always,
Happy Trails to You from Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Land of Enchantment and The Farolito!