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Holiday EventsThe 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 holiday look and feel unlike anywhere in the U.S. 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 culture, arts, and attractions remain in place 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 special gifts. Ski Santa Fe, just 16 miles from the Plaza, usually has all 73 runs open by Christmas while the forest's summer hiking trails become tracks for snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. 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 every year.
The December calendar is filled with special seasonal events in Santa Fe in a celebration of culture and heritage:
Christmas Eve in 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.
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.
Las Posadas 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.
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.
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. You can also find listings in the Calendar on Santafe.org
Christmas at the Palace is a celebration of the Spanish, Native American, and American traditions that weave together into Santa Fe's unique holiday is held at the 400-year-old Palace of the Governors. There is music, storytelling, refreshments, and always an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus.
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. Many of Santa Fe's 200 restaurants prepare special holiday menus of all kinds.
Winter Indian Market is a smaller, more intimate version of the summer Santa Fe Indian Market which is Santa Fe's largest annual event. It takes place the weekend after Thanksgiving at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center and features approximately 200 Native American Artists from the US and Canada.
The Feast of Guadalupe is a celebration featuring traditional dancing and feasts held in the Pueblo's homes. 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. 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.
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.
Temperatures in Santa Fe in 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 and there are occasional major storms, there are still 300 days of sunshine in a year. So it is possible to ski and play golf on the city's Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe in the same day.