New Mexico Celebrates the Lights of the Season - 2021
Christmas Eve in New Mexico is a magical time. The exteriors of centuries-old adobe buildings are decorated with small paper bags that are partially filled with sand to anchor small candles. As evening approaches, the candles are lit and the flickering flames reveal the outlines of walls, houses, and gardens. These bags are known as "farolitos" in northern New Mexico and "luminarias" in other parts of the state, but by any name they are enchanting reminders of ancient times when colorful holiday lights were stationed throughout remote corners of the world, drawing the traveler home for an important holiday and reminding the faithful of the great journey that ended in a manger. Initially, the curved lines of traditional adobe architecture provided a perfect canvas for portraits of light, conjuring holiday spirit out of simple shapes. Over the years, New Mexicans have elevated the humble paper bag to high art by using vast numbers to line streets, walkways, and structures so that in historic buildings from Mesilla and Santa Fe to modern edifices in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, the entire state seems to shine together, linked by a luminous web of twinkling magic.
The outline of light against rooftop, balcony and windowsill casts a flickering warm light that recalls Old World charm and the simpler joys of yesteryear, and this custom is paired with another famous New Mexican tradition: trademark hospitality that draws communities together on special occasions. A bright red chile ristra (a swag of chile peppers strung together to dry) hung by the front door means an invitation inside to table and hearth for sharing a pot of beans, fresh made tortillas, or a warm cup of cider paired with the state's famous biscochito cookies. Over the years, the tradition of lighting up the state with the humble sack and candle has grown in popularity to the extent that today, Christmas Tour buses in Albuquerque take tourists and locals alike on extensive tours of neighborhoods emanating out from the city's historic center known as "Old Town," making it the world's largest luminaria tour. Experiencing the simple joy of the sights of towns decked out in glowing points of light is truly enchanting and welcoming of all faiths. Even in times of turmoil, the holiday summons the magic of the season and connotes new hope and good will to all.