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Enjoy the Holiday Season in the Heart of Santa Fe County

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At the core of its being, Santa Fe County is a place of history, culture and ritual. During the holiday season it feels even more like the urgency of modern life quietly fades. A still, reverent ambience settles over Northern New Mexico as Christmas nears, intensifying the unique sights and scents of a culture preserved through centuries. Perhaps there’s no better sign of the holidays drawing close as the smoke of piñon wood rising from the adobe homes and dancing in the clear night sky. It wouldn’t be Christmas in Santa Fe County without chile, whose colors are, quite fittingly, red and green.

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Make This Your Santa Fe November To Remember: Upcoming Events

November always brings an opportunity to take a deep breath and appreciate the wonders of the season. Here in Santa Fe, we are grateful for the beauty of the mountains and the many diverse experiences that are available. From celebrating sustainability to the kick off of the holiday season, Santa Fe is filled with fun.  So join me in discovering a few of Santa Fe’s best November events.

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Giving Santa Fe: No Wrapping Paper or Bows Required

Surrounded by the radiance of light-strung cacti and piñon trees at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden’s Garden Glow, I couldn’t help but get that warm, fuzzy feeling of true holiday cheer.  It reminded me once again that what we remember most about the holidays isn’t what we get or even what we give, but mostly what we do, the experiences we create.  In Santa Fe, there’s a sleigh full of one-of-kind memories just waiting to be made.  So what are you waiting for? Be here now!

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Caroling, Christmas, Holiday, Shopping
Holiday carols and colorful lights set the mood at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden Glow (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Botanical Garden)

Cooking Up Holiday Surprises

When I send out gift certificates from the Santa Fe School of Cooking, I know that my recipients and I will both enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of the encounter. I’m living proof that your average Santa Fean’s cooking skills go from satisfactory to sublime with a Chile Workshop. Your visitors will reap the same results!

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Smiles come with the spatulas at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. (Photo Credit; Santa Fe School of Cooking)

And the Cooking School has more than just hands-on and demonstration cooking classes. Gifting someone with the School’s Shop Walk might mean you receive something unique in return. Signature sea salts or Spanish olive oil sound pretty tasty!  There’s even a three-day Southwest Culinary BootCamp for intrepid home chefs ready to delve deeply into our regional cuisine working side-by-side with some of Santa Fe’s best chefs.

Any conversation about Santa Fe’s best chefs has to include Rocky Durham. After Durham honed his skills in Europe and hosted his own cooking show, this talented maestro came home (as do native Santa Feans who miss the signature foods they cut their teeth on) to create some local culinary buzz. And he’s cooked it up right at the Santa Fe Culinary Academy! The academy’s mission to provide a classic and holistic education for future food industry professionals includes delicious community classes that cater to foodies hungry for authentic experiences.  And the series of Pop-Up Dinners that appear on the calendar are pure palate pleasure.

Christmas, Cooking, Santa Fe , New Mexico
Chef Rocky Durham is hands-on in the kitchen at the Santa Fe Culinary Academy. (Photo Credit: Eddie Moore for the Albuquerque Journal)

The Pros Provide the Guide to Santa Fe’s Dining Delights

Seeing the town on foot can be foodie heaven, too, and Santa Fe has double the fun on offer. Both the Santa Fe School of Cooking Restaurant Walking Tours and Food Tour New Mexico provide the perfect way to discover Santa Fe’s restaurant scene. Strolling to Santa Fe’s best restaurants, meeting the chefs, and sampling the flavors is entertainment and dinner in one fell swoop. You could even set up a friendly family rivalry by sending one team to each tour to report back on restaurant revelations!

 

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Cooking, Food, Green Chile
Who wouldn’t love to experience Santa Fe with Food Tour New Mexico as a guide? (Photo Credit: Food Tour New Mexico)

Clever Christmas Presents Include Creativity

Rest assured that there’s more than dough and spices to get anyone’s hands into. How about an afternoon at Santa Fe Clay? Located in the happening Santa Fe Railyard, this professional pottery studio is home to 20 resident artists and ideas burn as hot as the kiln in the 10,000-square-foot space. The gallery is full with treasures and family-friendly classes and weekend workshops let everyone spend fun-filled hours turning a ball of clay into an artistic masterpiece. And the most fervent craftsman in your family would be thrilled to attend a  2015 summer workshop – Santa Fe’s summer art season is inspiration that never quits.

 

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Hands-on at Santa Fe Clay is a colorful way to spend a day. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Sage Inn)

 

Creativity runs rampant in the City Different and Santa Fe Creative Tourism’s year-round classes come in every do-it-yourself medium imaginable! Budding photo buffs can graduate from selfies to stunning landscape shots and the camera faithful can up the ante with digital film-making classes. Put pencil to paper or brush to canvas for capturing the beauty of Santa Fe’s inspiring scenery. Traditional arts like yarn-spinning and tinsmithing teach the history of New Mexico along with technique. And those who just can’t hold the excitement inside can shake it with belly-dancing or capoeira (Brazilian martial arts) classes.

 

Santa Fe, New Mexico, art, Shopping, Craft
A monotype class with Sasha Wasko is a one-of-a-kind one-print experience courtesy of Santa Fe Creative Tourism. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Creative Tourism)

 

Christmas + Santa Fe = An Experience Memories are Made Of

Have I lit a fire in your mind? You don’t have to let the gift-giving frenzy get you into a tizzy! As you plan a Santa Fe Plus getaway for that special person on your holiday gift list, make sure you include yourself in the experience – when you combine “be here now” with “do it in Santa Fe,” you’ll want to be along for the fun.

 

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There’s No[el] Better Holiday than Santa Fe

Poor Bing Crosby! He clearly never spent his holidays in Santa Fe. If he had, he probably would have never crooned “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” After all, who wants to be home when Santa Fe strikes the pitch-perfect note throughout the holidays? From the church bells tolling in the background on November 28 when Santa Fe’s Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony ignites holiday spirits to the a capella carolers traipsing up and down Canyon Road on Christmas Eve, there’s a beautiful season rich in song and historic celebration to discover in the City Different!

holiday, santa fe, New Mexico, lights, Christmas, candles, festive, holidays
Hearts are alight in Santa Fe when the holidays arrive. (Photo Credit: Hannah Abelbeck, courtesy of the New Mexico History Museum)

Deck the [Palace] Halls
Strike the right holiday note with your little elves by bringing them to the Palace of the Governors, decked out in piñatas and live music for Christmas at the Palace, December 12 at 5:30 p.m. Free, fun family activities include operating the antique printing press and with hot cider and cookies on tap. This is one party you’ll want to attend! Be sure to follow up another day with a visit to the New Mexico History Museum to see Gustave Baumann and Friends: Artist Cards from Holidays Past, an exhibit of festive cards created by New Mexico’s most renowned artists.

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Christmas crafts are part of the fun when families celebrate Christmas at the Palace. (Photo Credit: Hannah Abelbeck, courtesy of the New Mexico History Museum)

Strolling back to the Plaza a mere two days later on December 14 is a must. At 5:30 p.m. it’s time for Las Posadas, an annual re-enactment of the Holy Family’s search for lodging. A loyal coterie of volunteers braves winter’s chill to circle the Plaza in a candle-lit procession as devils pop out to menace the seekers at each stop. When shelter is found and evil is vanquished, everyone heads to the Palace of the Governors’ courtyard to warm up, sip cider and sing carols around a cozy bonfire.

Anything But Silent Nights

Musically speaking, Santa Fe makes the holidays sparkle. On December 14 at 4:00 p.m., the Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus welcomes guest conductor Jason Altieri to the Lensic for a romp through favorites from White Christmas to Brazilian Sleigh Bells. I suspect you’ll be tempted to hum along with a carol or two! Want to sing, not hum? Return to the Lensic December 15 at 7:00 p.m. when Greg Heltman, founder/general director of the Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus, takes the podium to conduct the Santa Fe Concert Band in a rousing annual Christmas Concert. And the audience is always invited to sing along!

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You never know who might show up at the Santa Fe Concert Band’s Christmas Concert! (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Concert Band)

The glorious sounds of the Santa Fe Desert Chorale’s Carols and Lullabies concerts reach perfect heights December 16 and December 18-20 at 8:00 p.m. in the inspirational setting of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis. If you can’t wait that long, your best bet is the Chorale’s Winter Festival benefit opener, Christmas + Cabaret : The Lighter Side of Christmas, December 9 at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. And those who love a happy ending should complete the year with Ending and Beginnings: Chilling with Voasis, the eight-voice a cappella jazz/pop ensemble performing December 27 through New Year’s Eve at the Lodge at Santa Fe.

Another magical Santa Fe backdrop has been the holiday home of Santa Fe Pro Musica for ages. Pro Musica’s Baroque Christmas is beloved by locals (read: sell-out) and no wonder. As candles flicker on the altar of the rococo Loretto Chapel, authentic baroque instruments ring out their holiday best twice nightly, at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m., from December 19 through December 24. And of course, it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s Nutcracker, dancing across the Lensic stage on December 20 and 21!

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Santa Fe Pro Musica goes for baroque in their annual holiday appearance at the Loretto Chapel. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Pro Musica)

Dashing Through the Snow. . . And the Lights, too
While touring Christmas lights is a tradition everywhere, the experience is totally unique in Santa Fe. After all, how many towns commit hours of preparation to creating an awe-inspiring display for just one night? I’m referring to the annual Christmas Eve Farolito Walk that leads you from the Santa Fe Plaza to the surrounding historic neighborhoods. Bundle up the gang to see brown paper bags achieve signature status as they turn into farolitos with the addition of sand and a votive candle. Left burning all night long, these humble holiday lights signify lighting the way for the Christ Child. Regardless of your religious persuasion, the beauty is universal.

 

 

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas in Santa Fe. . .
Or a Feliz Navidad. Or sing Joy to the World. Whatever your tune, I’m certain you won’t be singing old Bing, wishing you’d were Home for Christmas. Turn your own holiday into a Santa Fe get-together getaway and a holiday soundtrack you’ll want to repeat for years to come.

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Santa Fe adobes share wall space with farolitos and colored lights alike! (Photo courtesy of the Inn of the Governors)

 

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Gift-Givers’ Guide to Santa Fe Style

Can you feel the holidays humming in the air? Snow has graced the mountaintops, seasonal foods are simmering, and celebrations are in store. Don’t let the thought of holiday shopping scare you because Santa Fe is a gift-giver’s paradise! I hope your list is made and you’ve checked it twice. This is the perfect time and place to score future smiles from one-of-a-kind holiday surprises.

Santa Fe, Shopping, Antiques, Jewelry
Things Finer’s name says it all – Santa Fe is full of fine things that amaze and delight!

Festive Finery Makes Gorgeous Gifts

Tucked inside La Fonda, the venerable hotel beloved by locals and visitors alike, Things Finer turns someone else’s unique treasure into a treasured gift. Glittering jewels mesmerize and antique curiosities beckon you to take a closer look. This is a place where you truly never know what you’ll find – that’s what makes it an exciting adventure.

 

 

 

 

skull, art, santa fe, new mexico, shopping, gift, holiday, heart, day of the dead, sugar skull
You’ll be sure to meet colorful characters in the Museum of New Mexico gift shops.

Discover Priceless Treasures by Museum Shopping

If you dig unique discoveries, the Museum of New Mexico’s shops need to be on your list. From folk art to handcrafted jewelry to books galore, the staff has searched far and wide to come up with a collection of distinctive global and local items that reflect each museum’s individual mission. Every historic exhibition yields special artistic gems, and they’ve made it easy to shop online for gifts that spread holiday cheer back to the hands that made them.

And don’t forget to go where the artists are. With  250 galleries in Santa Fe, you can’t miss! It’s always exciting to catch an artist on the cusp of a brilliant career, and The Shop at CCA is ideal for scoping out local talent on its way up. The goods on display have the same quirky sensibility as the Cinematheque schedule, with tons of originality.

 

To Market, To Market, To Find a Fine Treat

When you wander over to the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, make a beeline for Bon Marché, across from the Railyard Water Tower. Even on wintry days, the colorful collection instantly whisks you to sunny destinations.

 

shoes, gifts, santa fe, new mexico, shopping, colorful
Stroll in to Bon Marché – whose name means “good deal” in French – and you’ll walk out with happy feet and a happy wallet.

Multi-hued Catalan fabrics are woven on turn-of-the-century machinery then shipped to New Mexico where local artisans turn them into must-have beauties. Bright espadrilles evoke summer’s return, and beach bags add flair for lucky friends taking a winter cruise. And if you leave without those cheery napkins you loved, no problem – you’ll find them online.

 

 

Think of Fido’s mournful face if there’s no treat under the tree – you know you need something fun for four-legged BFFs. Pooch Pantry has the best for barkers, and you can even place orders for fresh-baked goodies. Doesn’t Coco deserve to eat her Christmas meal out of festive dinnerware? And if your hound stepped in a puddle on your holiday shopping trip, take heed of the self-service dogwash!

Simply Log In for Hands-free Shopping

For sweet stocking stuffers, I believe a spot of chocolate is required. The wise choice from afar? A jaunt to The Chocolatesmith! Nothing says Santa Fe like a rich dark chocolate pâté infused with chile. The only challenge with signature Santa Fe treats is not to eat them before they get tucked into that holiday stocking! Not to worry, munch away because these delicious delights are available online.

If you opt for gourmet chile chocolate pâté, you’ve got to do it Christmas-style, red and green! (Photo Credit: The Chocolatesmith)
If you opt for gourmet chile chocolate pâté, you’ve got to do it Christmas-style, red and green! (Photo Credit: The Chocolatesmith)

Online is the ticket for making a memorable Santa Fe statement with a gorgeous O’Keeffe poster from Posters of Santa Fe. The brick-and-mortar shop is no more, but theirs is a huge art archive of reproductions on paper. Once you’ve trolled through the online collections to make your choice, it’s a snap to have a poster shipped in time to tuck under the tree.

Light Up Your Holiday the Santa Fe Way

All this shopping and no schlepping required! Just visit PakMail or UPS and your hands are free to snap selfies at the November 28 Christmas tree lighting on the Santa Fe Plaza. If the holiday lights remind you of your own tree, head for The Shop: A Christmas Store or Susan’s Christmas Shop for ornaments with authentic New Mexico flavor. And remember the November 29-30 SWAIA Winter Indian Market for handmade Native American treasures you won’t find anywhere but Santa Fe.

A Santa Fe getaway definitely gives you the luxury of shopping in person, but you can be sure those distinctive presents you chose online will arrive for placement under the tree in plenty of time. Either way, shopping Santa Fe means yours will be the gifts that family and friends cherish for years.

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Don’t wait – start your holidays now in Santa Fe!

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Santa Fe: Families Rekindled

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Family Reunion
Any time of year becomes a holiday when families are together. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe School of Cooking)

No doubt about it, Santa Fe is a family town. How could it be otherwise in a place that’s well over 400 years old? City Different Facebook friends are constantly pointing out connections to great-greats going back centuries. And every local restaurant worth its salt has a private room where alumni assemble and 100th birthday parties hold court. Even the Santa Fe School of Cooking is ready, willing and able to put together a festive private party! I always cheer when far-flung relatives and assorted in-laws arrive to celebrate our bond – with a little advance planning, you can do the same.

Winter Over Under Santa Fe’s Blue Skies

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Art Gallery
Winter frost refreshes the view at Shidoni.

I love the fact that Santa Fe has four distinct seasons. Every time of year offers perfect opportunities for a family gathering. With winter on its way, we’re waxing skis and snowboards for the moment when Jack Frost’s powder starts falling at Ski Santa Fe, where snow sports regularly include a cloudless blue sky. Winter Glow nights at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden light up the landscape and a stroll around the Shidoni Sculpture Garden is magical when snow decorates the fanciful creations. If your semester break encompasses January, brew up a visit for the legal-age crew at the New Mexico Brewer’s Guild WinterBrewFest on January 23.

Spring into Action with Spring Break Santa Fe           

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Folk Art Museum
The whole family will turn into fans at Santa Fe’s fascinating Museum of International Folk Art. (Photo Credit: Museum of International Folk Art)

All school districts have individual spring break times, and it’s a blessing that Santa Fe offers so much for visitors with kids in tow. A visit to the Museum of International Folk Art is an experience for the young and the young-at-heart. Be sure to take the little ones to see the awesome collection of bugs and natural oddities at the Harrell House.

You’ll fall under the Old West’s spell as you lope along the trail with Broken Saddle Riding Company. All mounts are smooth-gaited – even inexperienced cowpokes can enjoy a serene ride through the sagebrush. While family foodies taste their way around town with Food Tour New Mexico, sporty siblings can corral 18 holes at Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe. A wildflower hiking trip is a spring awakening and even the least mobile family member can enjoy a sunset tour in Santa Fe Walkabouts’ Pinzgauer 4×4. Extra-lucky visitors can follow up the May 8-10 Passport to the Arts with five full days of Bike and Brew adventure from May 13-17.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Outdoors
Saddle up those sisters and brothers…time to ride into the west with Broken Saddle Riding. (Photo Credit: Broken Saddle Riding Co.)

Santa Fe Has A Bed for Every Head

My cozy adobe welcomes a sibling or two from time to time, but having so many great hotels is a definite plus when the whole family comes to call. Fortunately, Santa Fe has no equal in accommodations and charm. The only problem is choosing!

Wonderful winter memories from the Christmas Eve farolito walk are easy to be had with a stay at a downtown Santa Fe hotel. La Fonda on the Plaza has authenticity built into its very bones; a recent property-wide renovation has this Grand Dame looking spectacular.  For close-to-Canyon-Road action, look no further than the sparkling new Drury Plaza Hotel whose complimentary ample breakfast and afternoon reception are sure to please everyone.

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Santa Fe will feel like home with a stay at La Fonda on the Plaza. (Photo Credit: Robert Reck; Courtesy of La Fonda on the Plaza)

For warm weather reunions, consider the Inn and Spa at Loretto or La Posada de Santa Fe – both let grown-ups sip a cool margarita while kids cool off in the pool. And the Bishop’s Lodge Resort adds tennis courts and horseback riding to their list of amenities, along with their splendid pool.

Pack It All In with a Package

Santa Fe hotels put a lot of creative effort into crafting great deals for their guests. The Inn on the Alameda’s Girls’ Getaway is as sweet for college alums as it is for cousins. Hotel Santa Fe’s Ski Package (through April) has spring break skiing covered. Santa Fe Restaurant Week offers tasty savings from February 22-March 1 and Wine Down Wednesdays at Four Seasons’ Terra feature half-price bottles – and the fabulous views are free!

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sunsets
Nothing says Santa Fe like the 360-degree sunsets that Four Seasons’ Terra delivers.

Reunite the Relatives in Santa Fe

As the holidays approach, thoughts naturally turn to family, so why not put something special under the tree? I’ve shared a few ideas, but you can let the Santa Fe professionals put together something just for you. Either way, an invitation to celebrate kinship in Santa Fe is a gift that everyone will cherish and remember for years to come.

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In Santa Fe, There Are So Many Reasons to be Thankful

Every year, we have a designated opportunity to give thanks for life’s many benefits. But for us Santa Feans, reasons to be thankful jump out daily – from the awe-inspiring mix of scarlet and gold in a sunset that stops us in our tracks to the comforting warmth of a fresh tortilla on a crisp autumn morning. I could go on and on, but instead I’ll just list five reasons why you should make yours a City Different Thanksgiving. You can thank me later.

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Your heart will soar as you ride the lift to the top of the mountain at Ski Santa Fe.
(Photo Credit: Don Gaspar Inn)

I’m thankful for Santa Fe’s. . . Weather.

An average of 320 days of sunshine a year ensures delightful times as you hike up or glide down a snowy hillside with brilliant blue skies. And all without the bone-chilling humidity. The mountains encircling Santa Fe are gorgeous any time of year, but fresh powder for a Thanksgiving opening? It’s entirely possible and Ski Santa Fe has set its sights on a November 27 opening – fingers crossed!

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Cuisine, Tamales, Classes
Chef Noe Cano demonstrating the holiday art of homemade tamales. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe School of Cooking)

I’m Thankful for Santa Fe’s . . . Chile

Whenever I mull the idea of living elsewhere, the thought of a chile-less life stops me cold. I cannot imagine autumn without the scent of roasting chiles, let alone giving up my breakfast burritos to go on a snowy morning. As for Thanksgiving, turkey is the centerpiece but the distinctive flavors of our regional New Mexico cuisine find their way onto holiday dining tables all over town. Speaking of which, classes at the Santa Fe School of Cooking have been tuning up my family recipes for years, and a Native Harvest Feast class (November 6) taught by Native American Chef Lois Ellen Frank offers wonderful alternatives for your holiday table. I cherish this family-run temple of taste, marking their 25th anniversary with a new cookbook out in December.

Native American, Pueblo, Tesuque, dance
An undated Tesuque Pueblo Turtle Dance captured by renowned New Mexico photographer Laura Gilpin. (Photo Credit: Laura Gilpin; in the collection of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas)

I’m Thankful for Santa Fe’s. . . Cultural Combinations

Santa Fe was diverse long before diversity became a buzzword. Frontier life meant neighbors of every persuasion pitched in to create a community. You’re as likely to meet a Valdez with blue eyes and blond hair as one with thick black braids trailing down his back. Having a thriving Native culture adds unique character to the Land of Enchantment, and I honor that gift annually by attending Pueblo feasts. Tesuque Pueblo is less than ten miles from Santa Fe, and its San Diego Feast on November 11 is a memorable event celebrated with beautifully costumed dancers and a drum group on the pueblo’s central Plaza.

Santa Fe, Holidays, Lensic, Performing Arts
Wise Fool’s Circus Luminous lights up the Lensic stage annually. (Photo Credit: Wise Fool New Mexico)

I’m Thankful for Santa Fe’s . . . Vibrant Arts Scene.

Not a day goes by that I don’t feel lucky to live where the artful spirit is so alive. From lovingly handcrafted mission altarpieces to cutting-edge art exhibitions; from solo Native flute to a full orchestra; from age-old legends told around a campfire to pop-culture poetry readings; Santa Fe has it all. Every season is graced with inspiration, and Thanksgiving is no exception. SWAIA’s Santa Fe Winter Indian Market (Nov. 28-29) showcases the rich artistic culture of the First Peoples. A Saturday afternoon bronze pouring at Shidoni Gallery demonstrates the traditional execution of sculptural expression. The Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus’ annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah fills the Lensic on Sunday, November 23 and four rousing performances of Wise Fool’s Circus Luminous are on the Lensic’s roster November 28 to 30.

I’m Thankful for…Santa Fe’s Festive Spirit

Santa Fe is a town that loves to celebrate old traditions and create new ones. From January’s Souper Bowl to May’s Passport to the Arts; from July’s International Folk Art Market to November’s PieMania, Santa Fe knows how to throw a great party! And Thanksgiving ushers in an unusually rich series of pleasures. After the turkey is reduced to leftovers, we’ll head down to the Plaza on Friday, November 28 to watch as the big Christmas tree lights up to celebrate the start of the holiday season. With so much December fun in the wings – Christmas at the Palace and Las Posadas, the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk and Christmas Day dances at the Pueblos – not a moment goes by that I’m not grateful to be living here.

Wine, Fireplace, Santa Fe
Toast the love of friends and family by spending Thanksgiving together in Santa Fe

You’ll Be Thankful You Came to Santa Fe

It‘s easy for me to ramble on about the wonders of Santa Fe  because the magic is real in the Land of Enchantment. And best of all? The welcoming spirit of the people, who share the same questing spirit and love of life that brings you here! Why not celebrate your Thanksgiving with a stay in Santa Fe where gracias is lived all year-round?

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Tune Into the Holidays in Santa Fe

Wherever we may find ourselves over the holiday season, making merry simply wouldn’t be the same without a musical backdrop. A familiar carol heard in the distance, the strains of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker welling up, a haunting Baroque composition sung a cappella … these are the beautiful sounds that accompany the distinctive quality of a holiday spent in Santa Fe.

It’s our festive good fortune that talented performers of all stripes have chosen to make the City Different their permanent home. And the fact that guest artists from all over the world welcome an opportunity to perform here is an additional blessing, particularly at the holidays, when Santa Fe sparkles with color, excitement, and music.

Hallelujah for Handel

We know the holidays have well and truly begun when the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus treat us to the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. As always, this festive holiday tradition takes place at the Lensic on November 24, under the baton of conductor Tom Hall, with an informative preview talk taking place before the performance. I love that the program always includes the words so I can follow, and I’d like to meet the person who doesn’t like to hum along to the Hallelujah chorus!

It takes a village, or at least a whole chorus, to bring Handel’s Messiah to the stage of the Lensic in Santa Fe.
It takes a village, or at least a whole chorus, to bring Handel’s Messiah to the stage of the Lensic in Santa Fe.

The 30th season of the Symphony takes the holiday spirit to towering heights, with a glittering performance of Christmas Treasures at the fully bedecked Lensic. This concert of choral favorites, conducted by Joseph Young, includes holiday favorites from the Middle Ages all the way to the 20th century, with standards like Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and a suite from the movie Polar Express – there’s one for the kiddos! Be sure to mark this December 15th performance on your musical calendar. This all-ages performance is a sure bet for bringing a melodious close to the afternoon, and you can close out a magical day with a festive Sunday dinner downtown.

It’s a BIG Sing, and You’re Invited to Sing Along

The Santa Fe Desert Chorale, in its 31st season of choral concordance in Santa Fe, has become one of our most beloved musical groups, and they pay back the love with a return of The Big Sing, a local hit when it was inaugurated in 2012. This concert of song features performers of all ages, with appearances by the University of New Mexico Concert Choir and the UNM Children’s Chorus, in addition to the Desert Chorale led by its esteemed director, Joshua Habermann. Each of the three choral groups performing collected its own set of seasonal selections to infuse our hearts with holiday spirit. The Santa Fe ambiance of the venue, Cristo Rey Church on Canyon Road, adds to the flavor of this one-day only performance on December 15. And throughout the concert, the audience will be invited to sing along – I don’t know about you, but I am always ready to bust out some Silver Bells!

The Santa Fe Desert Chorale makes the rafters ring in Santa Fe’s beautiful Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis
The Santa Fe Desert Chorale makes the rafters ring in Santa Fe’s beautiful Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis

Not content with just a community sing-along, the Desert Chorale also brings their annual Carols and Lullabies concerts to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis for five stirring performances in December — and there’s a truly spiritual uplift on hearing an ancient lullaby echo through the rafters of our beautiful Cathedral. For those of you looking to lighten the holiday mood up a bit, here’s just the ticket: The Lighter Side of Christmas benefit concert for the Chorale on December 17 at Lewallen Gallery in the Railyard. This fa la la la laugh-inducing evening culminates in a silent auction famous for offering enticing treats on which to bid. The Chorale then winds up the year with sass and swing with a special New Year’s Weekend Concert December 28-31 by Voasis, the Chorale’s new contemporary a cappella ensemble, produced by Deke Sharon of NBC’s The Sing-Off. And if you’re really looking to step out for New Year’s, Warehouse 21 is a super-stylin’ venue for sassy selections with which to usher on 2014.

Nutty for the Nutcracker? Me Too!

I’ve seen The Nutcracker more than once, and I’ll see it again and again, because it’s simply part of my holiday tradition. And it only gets better every year, as the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet grows in stature and competence. Tchaikovsky’s memorable music forms a luscious backdrop for sugarplums and Russian dancers, snowflakes, and an epic battle between the King of the Rats and the stalwart Nutcracker, who fortunately wins every time. It’s always a delight to see the students of ASFB’s ballet school learn to face an audience and take their bows – that’s an artistic community in action. Two performances each day December 21-22 leave plenty of room for other holiday activities, so be sure to get the balletomanes in your family on board.

The King of the Rats — or as we might call him in Santa Fe, El Rey de Ratons — will never defeat the Brave Nutcracker
The King of the Rats — or as we might call him in Santa Fe, El Rey de Ratons — will never defeat the Brave Nutcracker

Going for Baroque

The Loretto Chapel, famous for its miraculous staircase, offers the perfect architecture and ambiance for a concert of baroque music and Santa Fe Pro Musica takes full advantage of the backdrop for A Baroque Christmas. This beloved chamber orchestra has been delighting Santa Fe audiences for over 30 years, and the holiday concerts are a highly anticipated part of our holiday tradition. From Friday, December 20 straight through to Christmas Eve, Pro Musica offers two concerts nightly, alternating between a pair of fabulous mezzo-sopranos, Deborah Domanski and Dianna Grabowski. The program includes works by Baroque masters Bach, Telemann, and Handel, along with a selection of traditional carols guaranteed to bring old memories to new life. A very important heads up: Since the Loretto Chapel is an intimate (read: limited seating) venue, these concerts will definitely sell out to those whose holiday décor includes beautiful music.

The sonic glories of Baroque composers come annually to the beautiful Loretto Chapel thanks to Santa Fe Pro Musica
The sonic glories of Baroque composers come annually to the beautiful Loretto Chapel thanks to Santa Fe Pro Musica

Concerts to Cherish from Christmas to New Year’s and Beyond

I am so thankful that the Santa Fe Concert Association has been treating music-lovers like me to world-class talent for an astonishing 76 years, and this year’s slate of performances is no exception. The Association kicks off the winter season with A Celtic Holiday Concert at the Lensic on December 2, when The Leahy Family, eight Canadian brothers and sisters who’ve have been playing together all their lives, will set feet to tapping and hands to clapping with joyous and accomplished musicianship. Even when there’s a hint of a mournful minor key, Celtic music just makes me feel happy.

Hark to the holiday spirit with a merry Celtic mood when Santa Fe Concert Association welcomes the Leahy Family.
Hark to the holiday spirit with a merry Celtic mood when Santa Fe Concert Association welcomes the Leahy Family.

I’m totally psyched to hear The King’s Singers, the renowned ensemble of masculine voices, in their one-night-only performance at the Cathedral Basilica December 6. Their musicality melds in a medley of anything and everything from Mozart to Henry Mancini — guess we’ll just have to wait and see — I mean, hear — what’s on the music stands.

SFCA celebrates Christmas Eve with a festive concert at the Lensic, when conductor Joseph Illick leads the SFCA Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 and welcomes soloist Caroline Goulding to perform a Beethoven Violin Concerto. The Concert Association’s holiday spirit toasts New Year’s Eve at a Lensic concert December 31, with guest soloist Claire Huangci, said to have “the fastest fingers in the world” joining Mr. Illick to perform Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, and a rendition of Brahms’ Second Symphony.

A Gala New Year’s Eve Dinner and Dance are in the works too, with fun and friends, drinks, dinner, and dancing to tunes by local favorite Soulstice — stay tuned to the SFCA website to hear more!

And if holiday music keeps you at home this year, the Concert Association still has something up the conductor’s sleeve when 2014 rolls round. Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is on the boards for January 10-12 in the stunning setting of the historic Scottish Rite Center. How often do you get to see a real Masonic temple so lovingly and vibrantly re-purposed? And best of all, these opera performances are free, yes, free!

Wrapped up in white, the architectural beauty of Santa Fe's St. Francis Cathedral is a holiday delight.
Wrapped up in white, the architectural beauty of Santa Fe’s St. Francis Cathedral is a holiday delight.

Harmonious Holidays Happen in Santa Fe
Are you hearing a delightful ditty already? Feel your feet tapping to a festive tune? Then make tracks to Santa Fe to compose magical musical memories for playback all year long. As J.K. Rowling says in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, “Ah, music … a magic beyond all we do here!” Santa Fe is tuned to the enchantment of holiday harmonies, and the more who join our party, the merrier it will be.

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Check Off the “Mr.” on Your Holiday List in Santa Fe

Now that Old Man Winter has passed his snowy fingers over the Santa Fe mountains, the recent white frosting reminds us of Old St. Nick’s snowy beard and his generous bag of goodies. I’ve often wondered what Mrs. Claus gifts to her “Mr. Has Everything,” which reminds me to ponder how to surprise all Mr.’s in my life as the holiday season approaches. A tour of Santa Fe’s treasure trove of shops and galleries makes my masculine gift list come together pretty quickly, and I don’t mind sharing some hints. (Check out my recent blog post on gift ideas for gals.)

Help Him Buckle Up in Style

Some guys simply won’t wear much jewelry — personal experience has made me admit defeat on that front. But how about a beautiful handmade silver belt buckle for your fellow? Randall D. Moore has been honing an aesthetic approach to dressing up a man’s daily look for decades, and it shows in the skillful artistry of his classic designs.

Randall D. Moore’s beautiful belt buckle designs and accessories are known around the world as the epitome of Santa Fe style.
Randall D. Moore’s beautiful belt buckle designs and accessories are known around the world as the epitome of Santa Fe style.

You can pick up a single belt buckle to start with, but we Westerners are partial to a full ranger belt buckle set, complete with a pair of keepers and a shining silver tip. Modest men may prefer the slim and elegant style of the Metro design, but if your fella is a bit more daring, a touch of turquoise or some braided edging add a look that is unmistakably Santa Fe. The wide assortment available in person (by appointment only) or online means the real issue is choosing what best complements your guy’s sartorial style. If he loves your thoughtful stylish gift, then it’s easy to follow up next year with cufflinks, a bolo tie, a tie tack, or other accessories to match.

With or without the gold accents, the Metro buckle set from Randall D. Moore adds shining silver to a gentleman's style.
With or without the gold accents, the Metro buckle set from Randall D. Moore adds shining silver to a gentleman’s style.

Speaking of bolo ties, I thought you’d like to know that right here in our capitol city, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson declared the bolo as the state’s official tie. So feel free to get one for all the men in your life as a souvenir of your trip, and for him to wear when he’s here instead of one of those stuffy traditional ties. My guy hasn’t tied a knot around his neck in years! 

Something One-of-a-Kind for Your One-in-a-Million Man

Even though my guy chooses a watch over a bracelet, I love the look of a beautiful chunk of silver on a well-muscled forearm. There’s also something to be said for simple jewelry on a man. Maybe your guy welcomes a bit more adornment in the jewelry department and you luckily get to shop accordingly. If that’s the case, every day is a good day for finding a signature piece under the portal at the Palace of the Governors, where Native American artisans set up to sell their creations daily. Scoring a spot along the covered portal means the artist has been vetted for authenticity, so you know that the seller or someone in the family is truly a Native craftsperson, and that means a lot in this age of knock-offs. And of course, it’s not just cuff bracelets — we’re talking leather bracelets for your family’s millennial men, and silver watchbands for their granddaddies. Just remember that if you see it today, it may not be there tomorrow, since the cast of characters changes according to who gets up and at it early.

Browsing the portal at the Palace of the Governors is a time-honored way to find a perfect holiday gift.
Browsing the portal at the Palace of the Governors is a time-honored way to find a perfect holiday gift.

Create New Memories with Old Things

If your gentleman friend is the type who loves quirky, vintage statement pieces like a garden folly or an old railroad sign, head for the southern part of the Santa Fe Railyard. Yes, there is another part of the Railyard, and it has quickly developed into yet another spot for the city’s talented retailers to curate old and new collections. Recollections, located on Cerrillos Road at the Baca Railyard, has been pure shopping enjoyment ever since it opened. Chock-full of curios, cabinets, cutlery, and curiosities, this antiques and consignment shop showcases diverse city tastes spread over 6,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. I’ve never walked in without snagging a terrific deal to dress up my domicile, and although I can’t promise you’ll find a garden gnome, don’t be surprised if you do!

An antique weather vane from Recollections is a perfect gift for weathering the outdoors this holiday with your honey.
An antique weather vane from Recollections is a perfect gift for weathering the outdoors this holiday with your honey.

Treat Him to Holiday Spirits

The City Different feels the same about fine spirits as it does about our renowned cuisine: we like it homemade. Santa Fe Spirits saw that niche and filled it in 2010 when Colin Keegan opened his distillery to create premium spirits right here in town. This ex-pat Englishman knew what he was after, and his stable of artisanal Scotch whiskies and Calvados-style apple brandy has been joined by his Expedition Vodka and Wheeler’s Gin, so your guy can sip his preference.

Gift your man with an experience on the Distillery tours on Wednesdays through Saturdays, 3–5 pm. A tour is an engaging and educational way to spend an afternoon, and cocktail hour follows from 5–9pm if the fellows want to linger on for fun. And the Tasting Room, open Mondays through Saturday from 3–5 pm in the heart of downtown, is a great place to meet and mingle with friends over a signature cocktail. I’m partial to the Sunset Coyote, but further exploration is definitely on my agenda … care to join?

Cooking Up a Christmas Gift Can Be Creative

A gift that keeps on giving – an experience – has additional benefits, so that even the partners who don’t cook find joy at the stove. How to make that happen? Gifting him with a chile-making workshop at the Santa Fe School of Cooking creates inventive chefs out of everyone. These “education in eating” experiences come in Christmas colors, meaning red chile or green, and a 2-hour class should arm him with all the knowledge he’ll need to pull together an enchilada dinner on football night while you laze on the couch and call out the score. He’ll come away able to discuss the merits of red versus green, and the history and varieties of New Mexico chile, and — if he’s a keen learner — with the skill to create a tasty homemade tortilla with his own two hands. And just as important, he’ll learn how to handle our spicy, potent ingredients safely and efficiently.

Give your man the gift of education this Christmas with a certificate he can use to learn new cooking skills.
Give your man the gift of education this Christmas with a certificate he can use to learn new cooking skills.

If the king of your castle considers the grill a critical feature of his domain, chefs/authors Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison’s 100 Grilling Recipes You Can’t Live Without: A Lifelong Companion should definitely be under the tree. Renowned food experts who have made Santa Fe their home, this talented culinary couple has assembled a mouth-watering compendium of classic grilling delights. In addition to their 100 original recipes, the book is peppered with fascinating anecdotes, cooking tips and trivia, and barbecue lore from the ages. The book is available from the School of Cooking’s online market, along with some intriguing ingredients to make him drool while he dreams about a winter barbecue.

Spa-ctacular Surprises

Sometimes all it takes is feeling good to make the holiday a great one, and a relaxing spa treatment is just as appealing to those of the X chromosome. He may not admit it, but he’ll be glad you did it when you surprise him with a gift certificate for a spa treatment. While Santa Fe’s Ten Thousand Waves, located up in the mountains, is justifiably well-known for both spa services and fabulous outdoor hot tubs, there are also many places in town to get a great massage or a facial treatment to soothe the chapped skin of a diehard skier. And if you and he are taking your Santa Fe getaway in a hotel with a spa, how much easier that will be

Give that man a Ten Thousand Waves massage, and you’ll see a relaxed smile. (Photo by Melinda Elwell, courtesy of Ten Thousand Waves)
Give that man a Ten Thousand Waves massage, and you’ll see a relaxed smile. (Photo by Melinda Elwell, courtesy of Ten Thousand Waves)

Buy the Boy a Southwest Memory

Be he a well-loved companion of many years or a new flame, a fledging just learning to leave the nest, or Dear Old Dad, the men in your life will appreciate the effort you put into finding a singularly Santa Fe gift. Between now and the holidays, super Santa Fe deals abound, so a quick trip in person or an online exploration will ensure your holiday shopping success. Body, mind, or soul, the guys deserve a reward just as fabulous as the ladies, and you’ll share in the delight when he opens that package to find a unique surprise that’s truly City Different.

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