Nothing warms the heart and brings the holidays to life like the beauty of candlelight and crackling fire. Santa Fe has a long tradition of magical holiday lights that glow with the warm spirit of tradition. Through out the holidays, farolitos line the streets and rooftops of houses and businesses in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The farolitos are constructed of a brown paper bag, sand , and a votive or tea candle.
In modern times, the lights have been adopted throughout the Southwest, and sometimes combined with strings of plastic sacks and electric bulbs.
Farolitos” and “luminarias” are often interchangeably used in New Mexico to name the lights. In Santa Fe and elsewhere in northern New Mexico, there is a long-held distinction between farolito, meaning a small paper lantern, and luminaria, meaning a small vigil fire or bonfire. In northern New Mexico, especially, the bonfire is traditionally constructed of fragrant piñon branches crisscrossed and stacked like a small box. In a land which has had a large Catholic population, farolitos and luminarias traditionally have had a religious, symbolic significance for lighting the way of the Holy Family on Christmas Eve.
These warm lights are used to mark a home hosting Las Posadas, a neighborhood re-enactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to stay (a posada is an inn) which takes place each night for nine nights before Christmas and includes singing, praying, and food.
Luminarias is the word used in Santa Fe for the bonfires found around the Canyon Road neighborhood on Christmas Eve. It is said, too, that these luminarias were originally used to light the way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
Not to be missied is one of Santa Fe’s most beloved holiday traditions, the Canyon Road Farolito Walk, lights up the hearts and souls of thousands who stroll the iconic road on Christmas Eve. Known for world class galleries, Canyon Road transforms into a work of art itself during this annual celebration that is unique to Santa Fe. It is also said that these farolitos and luminarias were originally used to light the way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
Make sure you have comfortable shoes and warm clothing, because this is an outdoor walk, with many local streets closed to vehicles. Just picture it: One night, carols ringing out, thousands of farolitos a-glow. And then this bucket-list experience becomes a beautiful memory until the next holiday season rolls around. Please be sure to obtain your 2016 Santa Fe travel guide!