The time around the holidays in Santa Fe is one of the most marvelous times of the year. Even if we do not have snow for the famous Christmas Eve Canyon Road walk, history has entrusted us with traditions that provide the same twinkle and sense of wonder of snow settling on our adobe walls in winter. In 1810, before Mexico’s War of Independence against Spain, Santa Fe was still a small cluster of adobe buildings in “La Nueva Espana Norte.” The arrival of the Spanish introduced the tradition of building small bonfires in front of your home to light the way of neighbors passing to Christmas Eve Mass. These were known as Luminarias, which are sometimes mistakenly identified as Farolitos, as they were sources of warmth and light and illuminated the passage of Catholics on Las Posadas, the procession to church.
In the 19th century, arriving Europeans moving west from the American east coast brought with them to Santa Fe the tradition of burning candles in Chinese paper lanterns. Even still, the town of Pacific Grove , California, where my sister lives, has an evening celebrating the beauty of the Chinese lantern called the Feast of Lanterns. These are called “farolitos.” In response to the increase in expense of Chinese lanterns, paper bags with sand in the bottom and a small votive candle inside became a more affordable and uniquely Santa Fe tradition, equaling and even surpassing the luminarias in use, with the exception of Christmas Eve.
Now, these votive candles in paper bags have been generally replaced with runs of electric lights inside plastic brown bags which are set on the adobe roof tops and walls as a celebration of the holidays, often appearing before Thanksgiving and staying up into January. Their beauty is so breathtaking, it is hard to take them down for the year. So, November, December and January are beautiful times of the year for the holiday spirit, and hotel rates are lower too!! So join us at the Inn on the Alameda to experience the beauty of the Santa Fe all decked out for the holidays.
Joe Schepps is recognized through countless local associations, as well as Santa Fe city, New Mexico state and National Trust For Historic Preservation for excellence in historic renovation and preservation. Learn more about Joe…