Decoding Christmas in Santa Fe

Chili peppers and Christmas lights in Old Town Albuquerque

Another Christmas has drawn to a close and the New Year is right on our doorstep. Santa Fe has, over the past day or so, been transformed into something of a winter wonderland. The past month has been incredibly busy with concerts, Christmas services, graduation, travel, and welcoming guests, and as a result this has been the most chaotic December that I think I have ever encountered! Still, I was able to absorb some of what is Christmastime in Santa Fe and have compiled a short list of terms that the outsider will need to know when encountering the season in “The City Different.”

Biscochitos: Anise cookies covered in cinnamon sugar. These tasty little things are considered the state cookie of New Mexico. Of course, people who know me know that I can consume an extremely minimal amount of something like this before I become something that resembles the girl in The Exorcist, so I immediately needed to create a version with unrefined sugar. Apparently I committed a cardinal sin by using butter instead of lard, but mine were quite tasty nonetheless and did not induce any sort of hypoglycemic hysteria prior to Christmas Eve services.

Canyon Road: At most times of the year, a lovely road filled with art galleries and restaurants. On Christmas Eve it becomes a Yuletide tradition replete with carolers, hot apple cider, biscochitos, and tons of farolitos to light the way. No church musician can get out to see this scene on Christmas Eve, but some lovely person has posted a video of the sights an sounds of a typical Canyon Road Christmas.

Farolitos: Glowing luminaries light the way for the season all over the city, on the rooftops and walkways of various buildings, homes, and churches. The luminaries are created by placing small candles in sand at the bottom of a paper bag. Amazingly, they do not seem to catch on fire. Scores of farolitos create a wonderful sort of “old world” feel to the already picturesque adobe architecture. See also: “Flying Farolitos”

Postcard entitled "Farolitos at Twilight." Photo © 1996 Bill Bonebrake

Flying Farolitos: Evidently a part of the festivities surrounding Canyon Road. This odd Santa Fe ritual, prepared by Arvo Thomson, is an extension of the farolito concept in which a large paper balloon ascends into the night air due to heat from the candles. Apparently they do sometimes ignite.

Traveling to graduation prevented me from seeing any of Las Posadas, the annual event that represents Joseph and Mary seeking lodging in preparation for the birth of Christ. Participants engage in a procession around the Plaza as the couple seeks shelter. They are finally welcomed at the Inn of the Governors, where refreshments are served. Local churches also hold events in honor of Las Posadas.

In other news, Piper the Kitty has had a most excellent first Christmas in Santa Fe with oodles of cat treats, a new fuzzbug toy, and both mother and grandmother home to spoil her rotten. Here’s wishing everyone continued peace on earth and goodwill to all furry animals.

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