Christmas in Santa Fe, New Mexico is a beautiful time. With mild evening temperatures, outdoor celebrations have become holiday tradition! Lighting the way to a festive month in December -especially on Christmas Eve- luminarias or farolitos are found prominently on top of adobe buildings, lining quiet streets, and ushering friends to welcoming homes and businesses along walkways and doorsteps. So what are Farolitos? Luminarias? Simply put, these are” candles of light” which symbolize the way for the Christmas family to find warmth, comfort, and protection. These “candles of light” are carefully placed in sand inside a small brown paper bag, providing a warm glow at night. Generally found in prominence beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving at lighting of the Christmas trees on the historic Santa Fe plaza and enjoyed throughout December. Santa Fe infamous “glow of luminarias” throughout downtown, the historic plaza and surrounding neighborhood areas is truly a one-of-a-kind Christmas experience. Nighttime strolls in downtown Santa Fe are especially enchanting on Christmas eve when Canyon Road is lined with luminarias and spotted with farolitos (little bon fires) to provide warmth. Canyon road on Christmas eve creates lifelong memories for Santa Fe travelers as this famous holiday walk inspires carolers, hot chocolate vendors, good cheer, and warm greetings from friend and foe alike. Luminarias, lighting the way for Christmas strollers line the street, walls, and illuminate windows as well as walkways greeting guests, family and friends. A truly magical holiday community festival for all to enjoy is easy walking distance for guests of Pueblo Bonito b&b.
In the Beginning, Bonfires Led the Way
These little lights have their roots in the 1800’s. Small bonfires, like the current day bonfires on the corners of Canyon Road in Santa Fe (Farolitos), were used to guide people to Christmas Mass. Quite often they were set out during the final night of Las Posadas, the symbolic representation of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem walking from home to home before Jesus was born (replicated current day on the 2nd Sunday in December). In later days, children carried small farolitos as they reenacted Las Posadas with current “little lights” hung on trees in the plaza.
Use of Luminarias
Now a days people use luminarias to decorate the path to their door as well as outlining the roofline of their home with warm inviting electric luminaria lights. Historically, luminarias were a series of small bonfires lining the roads. As customs evolved from small bonfires to small paper bag lights, terminology has evolved as well and confusion as to what exactly a luminaria vs. farolito is. Farolito meaning small fire where as luminaria means small light. These two terms are now used interchangeably to describe the small paper bag lights that create a luminous wonderland in Santa Fe during December holiday season. Farolitos are much more risky as they are open fires vs. the small bagged light which are replicated for further safety by using small electric lights inside paper bags as can often be seen.
Making Your Own
Making luminarias, or farolitos, is fairly easy. Just purchase paper bags, votive candles and gather sand (dry). Crafty people may cut holiday shapes in the bags or textures on the top rim. Fill each bag with several inches of sand, then press a votive candle in the center of the sand so the flame does not touch the paper sides. We recommend lining your walk way and skip the more dangerous positioning of luminarias on your rooftop . Choose a dry night with very little wind so to prevent accidental ignition of bags. Luminarias usually burn about 4 hours before going out. You’ll probably be headed for bed about that time! So decorate, invite your friends and enjoy the ambiance and enchantment of true Santa Fe Christmas by bringing New Mexico traditions to your holiday decorating.
Thanksgiving in New Mexico is a time for gathering with family and loved ones, expressing gratitude and, of course, eating- yes lots of eating! A truly memorable and one of a kind Thanksgiving vacation to Santa Fe wouldn’t be the same without this all of the important aspect of tantalizing New Mexico cuisine! Over 150 restaurants to choose from in the downtown area alone provided plenty of options: creative, traditional, eclectic and more! Within a short stroll from Pueblo Bonito b&b you’ll find (5 or less minutes) : Restaurant Martin, Galisteo Bistro, Rio Chama, Blue Corn Café; 10 minutes or less: La Casa Sena, Geronimos, The Compound to name just a few.
After dining with family and friends this holiday, New Mexicans can pay tribute to the spirit of the very first Thanksgiving by honoring Native American culture. The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts’ (SWAIA) Winter Indian Market, held every year the weekend after Thanksgiving Day, features row after row of Native American art, handcrafted by more than 100 artists. (The larger Summer Indian Market, also run by SWAIA, features the work of more than 1,100 artists.) The fair, which dates back almost 100 years, also offers native cuisine, ranging from “Pueblo style oven bread and pies” to Navajo blue corn pancakes. Admission is free for this annual event, held at the Santa Fe Convention Center. November 24-25, Admission: $5.
Ski Santa Fe- The 2012/2013 Ski/Snowboard season is currently scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day. Since weather is one element mankind is unable to control, we hope that the “El Nino” weather pattern holds true for this season! An exceptional Family skiing experience begins in a city that has been in the top 10 tourist destinations for years. Ski Santa Fe appeals to snow enthusiasts who desire a great mountain experience and something more than a typical resort. Ski and snowboard in fresh powder all day, then take in world-class art, dining, and culture at night. Ski Santa Fe is conveniently located just 18 miles northeast of Pueblo Bonito b&b inn – Santa Fe (an easy 20-25 minute drive). Ski Santa Fe is in the Santa Fe National Forest; has a base elevation of 10,350′; peak elevation of 12,053′; vertical drop of 1,703′; average annual snowfall of 225″. Ski acreage is 660 consisting of 45 runs with 40% expert, 40% intermediate, and 20% novice. Snowboarding is allowed on 50% of trails. Lift lines are generally short and ticket prices affordable as compared to highly commercialized ski resorts.
The La Cienega Studio Tour. La Cienega is a lush valley about 15 miles from Pueblo Bonito bed & breakfast inn and accessed from I-25. Once a Spanish land grant, this quaint little village is home to many different kinds of artists from painters, ceramic artists to sculptors and woodworkers. Thanksgiving weekend, these artists open their studios for tours and intriguing conversations! Nov 24, 25, 2012
Hiking! A year round family activity for which notable hikes near Santa Fe, New Mexico consist of:
*Aspen Vista Trail – Popular and easy trail in Sangre de Cristo Mountains located on Ski Basin Road at the 13 mile marker.
*Dale Ball Trails – A system of interconnecting trails for hikers that connect it to the Nature Conservancy Trail, the Dorothy Stewart Trail, and the Atalaya Trail.
*Atalaya Mountain Trail – Another popular trail leading toward the summit of Atalaya Mountain (9,000 feet elevation at the peak). This is a steep trail near the summit, and provides spectacular views of Santa Fe. Access is at the St Johns College parking lot which is less than a 5 minute drive from Pueblo Bonito Inn- Santa Fe.
*The Nature Conservancy Trail – One of the closest trails to Pueblo Bonito b&b- Santa Fe and access is from parking area on Upper Canyon rd. Ruins of an old dam are notable on this trail which runs along the original route of the Santa Fe river.
*Tent Rocks Trail – One of our favorites! A beautiful 40 minute drive from Pueblo Bonito bed and breakfast inn and located in Tent Rocks National Monument in Cochiti Pueblo. Prime viewing of exquisite rock formations await the moderately skilled hiker for which the park has been named.
A trail guide is available at the City of Santa Fe website.