One might think winter holidays consist of only three specific days of the year: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve. Santa Fe, also known as the “City Different”, holds true to its name. A consecutive 30+ day period hosts in the holidays- Pre-Thanksgiving through New Years! A festive, holiday menu of music, cuisine, shopping, special events and more for locals and New Mexico visitors alike.
Holiday festivities begin mid-November with Handel’s Messiah. On Thanksgiving Day, activities can include giving thanks and worship, enjoying friends or family, strolling down quiet, quaint streets of downtown Santa Fe, feasting upon tantalizing cuisine prepared by Santa Fe’s top Restaurateurs, hiking in glorious landscapes like Tent Rocks or enjoying opening day of Ski Santa Fe- to list just a few! Folks of all ages enjoy relaxing and reflecting on this quiet and fun (always fun!) Thanksgiving holiday. Friday after thanksgiving (aka: Black Friday) ushers in a busier time with great pre-Christmas bargain shopping, downhill skiing, snowboarding or cross-country skiing at Ski Santa Fe, Pueblo Feast Dances, and of course the lighting of the plaza! (Always a joy filled, well attended celebration of awe inspiring lights and decorations of the downtown Santa Fe plaza- see photo). Between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, Santa Fe visitors enjoy a quieter, more peaceful time period filled with discounted hotel rates (Pueblo Bonito b&b inn offers a $99/nt rate with in-room wood burning kiva fireplace!). This slower time of the travel season is when folks can begin preparations of the heart, mind and soul for the upcoming holidays. Many holiday specific arts and culture events help usher in this holy time of year:
Nov 24: Handel’s Messiah: Lensic Performing Arts Center: Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, with Guest Conductor Gary Thor Wedow, Choral Director Dr. Linda Raney, and renowned guest soloists Devon Guthrie, Joseph Beutel and Joshua Dennis. A musical rite of the holiday season, this Baroque-era oratorio still awes listeners after more than two-and-a-half centuries.
Nov 27: Ski Season Opens – Enjoy a day of skiing at Ski Santa Fe! Voted #1 Best Deal for US Ski areas- a great ski experience for all ages and skill level, yet not as commercialized allowing for short lift lines, great snow conditions, excellent cafe service and just 16 miles from Pueblo Bonito b&b inn. After a full day of exhilarating snow skiing, return home to enjoy a complimentary afternoon tea, romantic fire in your in-room kiva fireplace and easy stroll to dinner at one of Santa Fe’s best restaurants!
Nov 28: Lighting of the Christmas Tree on the Plaza. Walk to/from Pueblo Bonito b&b inn!
Nov 28: Black Friday- Shopping on the plaza and around downtown Santa Fe is no problem! There are so many unique, distinctive, and rare items to select from for your Christmas shopping lists. If you can’t find that challenging person a great gift in Santa Fe, it probably doesn’t exist! Pueblo Bonito gift shop offers discounts off all inventory for guests of Pueblo Bonito b&b inn (jewelry, pottery, rugs, baskets, knives, and more!).
Nov 28, 29. 30: 11th Annual Circus Luminous at the Lensic Performing Arts Theatre: A more recent favorite Thanksgiving weekend tradition featuring local acrobats, clowns and aerialists. Walk to performance from Pueblo Bonito Inn-Santa Fe, NM
Nov 29, 30: SWAIA Winter Indian Market– all about community. A perfect blend of exuberant, long established holiday spirit of Santa Fe and beautiful, creative Native arts, traditions and culture.
Dec 12: Christmas on the Plaza– 30th anniversary of this beloved Santa Fe event, with hot cider, live music, entertainment and a visit from Mr and Mrs Claus. At the Palace of the Governors. Free, family event.
Dec 14: Las Posadas. This traditional Hispanic tradition re-created Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging the night Jesus was born with a candle-lit procession around the Santa Fe Plaza.
Dec 14: Holiday spirit is highlighted with The Santa Fe Symphony’s annual afternoon of Christmas favorites! This celebratory performance feature Guest Conductor Jason Altieri, Director of Orchestras at the University of Nevada and Associate Conductor for the Reno Philharmonic, as The Symphony performs Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, Yon’s Gesù bambino, Faith’s Brazilian Sleigh Bells, White Christmas by Irving Berlin, Wendell’s Little Drummer Boy (Bolero), and Anderson’s A Christmas Festival.
Dec 19-24: A Baroque Christmas: Loretto Chapel. Santa Fe Pro Musica Baroque Ensemble. Music by Back, Handel, Vivaldi and Traditional Carols. 6&8 pm each evening. Santa Fe Pro Musica is a nationally recognized musical organization that remains steeped in its commitment to community.
Dec 20, 21: The Nutcracker: Lensic Performing Arts Center. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s “The Nutcracker“. Children of all ages marvel at the whimsical interpretation of a seasonal classic. Ballet, flamenco, Chinese silk dancing, and an aerialist allow the cast of 60 dancers, actors, and circus artists to create lifelong memories for you and your loved ones.
Dec 21: Holiday Open House: Celebrate holidays with music, refreshments, and Gustave Baumann marionettes at the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Dec 24: Christmas Eve Concert: Family Concert Series at 2pm & 5pm Lensic Performing Arts Center. The magic of the season is captured with two of the most cherished orchestral works of all time: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 performed by the Performance Santa Fe Orchestra and conducted by Joseph Illick, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue played by 13-year-old virtuoso pianist and composer Emily Bear.
Dec 24: Canyon Road Farolito Walk. A work of art itself! Annual celebration which is uniquely Santa Fe. Lit by traditional farolitos and luminarias, Canyon Rd is arguably never more beautiful than on Christmas Eve. visitcanyonroad.com
Dec 28, 29: Music for the Royal Fireworks: St Francis Auditorium. Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra.Telemann Water Music; Vivaldi Concerto in F Major, “Autumn” for the Four Seasons; Vivaldi Conterto in F Minor, “Winter” from the Four Seasons; Handel Music for the Royal Fireworks.
Dec 31: New Years Eve Concert. Lensic Performing Arts Center: Guaranteed to bring in the New Year in grand style! An early-evening concert featuring the Performance Santa Fe Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Illick, playing Beethoven’s joyous 1st Symphony, and renowned violin soloist Vadim Gluzman playing the incomparable Bruch Violin Concerto. Soprano Ava Pine will delight you with her ravishingly beautiful voice, thrilling coloratura, and sensual singing in selections by Handel and Lehár. Enjoy free parking for this event when staying at Pueblo Bonito bed and breakfast inn– less than 5 minute walk to the Lensic Performing Arts Center.
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.