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2012 Santa Fe Holidays

Late fall and the December holidays bring together Santa Fe's historic adobe surroundings with priceless traditions from Spanish, Native American, and Old West heritage to give the city a look and feel unlike anywhere in the U.S. Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season when the nearby mountains are covered in snow, the sky is vivid blue, and the spicy smell of local piñon wood in fireplaces scents the air as the city moves into its most romantic and charming season.

All of the city's vibrant culture, arts, and attractions continue to enchant even as Santa Fe quiets down for the winter. The city is shopping heaven and its many boutiques and galleries are busy with those seeking that special gift. Ski Santa Fe, just 16 miles from the Plaza, usually has all 73 runs open by Christmas while the surrounding forest wonderland is filled with tracks for snowshoeing and Nordic skiing.

Food...New Mexicans love their locally grown chile all year, but Christmas is a time for special dishes. Posole, a stew of chile, dried white corn, and pork is traditional on Christmas Eve. So are tamales, corn dough with a sweet or savory filling wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. And bizcochitos, sugary, flakey cookies, are not to be missed. During this time of the year favorite seasonal recipes are shared with all, such as Winter Squash Posole from the Santa Fe School of Cooking. Many restaurants and hotels have events and dinners that make everyone feel like family home for the holidays and the city's relaxed atmosphere keeps visitors and friends returning to celebrate every year

Music. The city is filled with music throughout the entire holiday season, including Christmas Eve. Look for concerts by the Santa Fe Men's Camerata, Santa Fe Concert Association, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Santa Fe Pro Musica Baroque Ensemble, Santa Fe Symphony, and Santa Fe Women's Ensemble. Find listings in the calendar at

Just in time for this holiday season, the Museum of International Folk Art opens a highly anticipated exhibition, New World Cuisine: The Histories of Chocolate, Maté y Mas. Food will tell the delicious tale of how the Old and New Worlds came together and trace the origins, rise in popularity, and cross-cultural connections of chocolate and maté.

The rest of the December calendar is filled with special seasonal events in Santa Fe during a celebration of culture and heritage:

Winter Spanish Market, December 1—2. This is a smaller, more intimate version of Summer Spanish Market, one of Santa Fe's largest and most beloved events. The Spanish Colonial Arts Society, through the annual markets and its Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, preserves and encourages traditional arts that have existed here throughout the past 400 years. Some of these arts, which include tinwork, weaving, embroidery, straw appliqué, and the carving and painting of images of saints, are only found in Santa Fe and are highly collected. At the winter market there are many small items suitable for gifts. Spanish Market is juried and artists must meet very high standards to participate. There is a pre-market show and sale, WinterNite, on November 30. Both events are at the Santa Fe Convention Center. Spanish Colonial Arts Society/Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, 505-982-2226,

Christmas at the Palace, December 7, 5:30 to 8 P.M. A celebration of Spanish, Native American, and American traditions that weave together Santa Fe's unique holiday heritage. Held at the 400-year-old Palace of the Governors, there is music, storytelling, refreshments, and always an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Palace of the Governors, Inessa Williams,, 505-476-5100.

Las Posadas, December 9, 5:30 to 7:00 P.M. This is a traditional Spanish folk play that reenacts Mary and Joseph's search for a room on Christmas Eve. It starts at the Palace of the Governors and winds around the Plaza with spectators following along. There are some funny moments and the Devil is always a popular character. Everyone joins in for cookies and cider afterward in the Palace courtyard.

Feast of Guadalupe, December 12. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas and the Patron Saint of Pojoaque Pueblo. She first appeared to Juan Diego, a Mexican Indian, in 1531. This celebration features traditional dancing and feasts held in the Pueblo's homes. Visitors can be invited to dine with tribal members but are encouraged not to linger in order to allow others a place at the table. Held at the Pojoaque Pueblo, 505-455-3549.

Christmas Eve. The Santa Fe Plaza, the heart of the city, is filled with 1,000 glittering farolitos, turning it into a magical place. There are carols and cider and many people walk a few blocks to the Cross of the Martyrs where there are views of the entire city, more farolitos, and bonfires. Nowhere is tradition stronger than along Canyon Road and the nearby neighborhoods where every surface glows with farolitos and luminarias creating a warm inviting stroll as locals and visitors come together, chatting and caroling. Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800-777-2489,

Noche Buena, the Midnight Mass of the Rooster. This service incorporates a folk story about the animals in the manger on Christmas Eve. They were dismayed that no humans had come to visit the Christ child, so an elderly rooster flew to the rafters and crowed the news of the child's birth to the world. Basilica Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi, 505-9982-5619.

Native American Dances. Native American Dances are beautiful and spiritual to watch. They are not performance dances, but rather are ceremonial in nature, expressing ancient traditions and connections to the earth. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are excellent opportunities to view dances, but visitors are asked to be respectful, follow rules set by the Pueblos, and remember that these are religious events. On Christmas Eve, there will be a sundown torchlight Procession of the Virgin at at Picuris, Nambe, and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblos. There are Matachina and other dances on Christmas Day at Picuris, Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara, Taos, and San Ildefonso Pueblos. There are Holy Innocents and children's dances at Santa Clara and Picuris Pueblos on Deceomber 28. At Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo there is a turtle dance on December 26. On New Years Day and the first few days of the year, there are dances and Transfer of the Canes ceremonies honoring tribal government officials. It is always best to check ahead and confirm dances and dates at each of the Pueblos.

A word about Farolitos and Luminarias. Farolitos are made from the most humble materials—a brown paper bag, some sand, and a votive candle. But hundreds of them lining streets, walls, and buildings create twinkling golden lights that turn holiday nights into a wonderland. Luminarias are small bonfires that are a nice way to warm your hands while strolling the streets. Both are a New Mexico tradition and the words are interchangeable within the region. In Albuquerque, the meaning of the terms is reversed.

Temperatures in Santa Fe in November and December are normally in the low 40s during the day and low 20s at night. Ski Santa Fe at a much higher elevation is considerably colder. While it does snow in town in the winter, it really does not stick around, there are 300 days of sunshine in a year and the air temperature remains comfortable. So it is possible to ski and play golf at the city's Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe in the same day.

For visitor information, new holiday events, winter hotel package deals, and updates check the Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau web site,

Winter Squash Posole

Serves 4-6

2 C posole, soaked overnight
1 C roasted pumpkin, butternut squash
? C vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 t. ground sage, divided
1 T. Mexican oregano
8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 roasted, peeled and seeded NM green chiles
? C white wine
2 qts. chicken stock, more if needed for a stew consistency
honey, to taste
apple cider vinegar, to taste
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

1. Soak posole overnight in water; drain and transfer to a large pot, cover with water and simmer until tender, about 2 hours.
2. Peel the squash and remove the seeds. Cut into a medium-size dice, toss with the vegetable oil, salt, pepper and 1 t. sage. Roast in a 425˚oven until toasty brown and tender. Remove from oven and cool.
3. In a large pot, add about ? C vegetable oil, heat, add the onion, Mexican oregano, 1 t. sage and sauté until onions are translucent. Add garlic, stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes. Add the green chile and white wine, simmer until wine is reduced almost all the way. Add the posole and stock to the pot, turn heat up to medium high simmering to infuse flavors.
4. When ready to serve, add the squash back to the pot, adjust flavors with a touch of honey, apple cider vinegar, salt and black pepper to taste. Serve in bowls garnished with a dollop of sour cream and some slivered green onions

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