New Mexico is one of my favorite regions in the US, and though mainly known as a summer destination, it also shines -- literally-- at Christmastime.
With its large Hispanic population, Christmas in New Mexico is a major festival. A beautiful aspect of this celebration is the appearance everywhere of luminarias, or farolitos: small candles set in sand inside paper bags.
Thousands of these small flames line streets, staircases, doorways, and even roofs. Visitors can enjoy luminaria displays in Old Town Albuquerque and Santa Fe, or in smaller towns such as Taos. (Taos is a great place to visit with kids, not least because of its unique three-story native American pueblo: read about visiting Taos New Mexico.)
A bonus for visitors coming to New Mexico in December is the opportunity to ski or snowboard. Santa Fe has a ski mountain just 30 minutes from the central Plaza, and Taos offers awesome skiing just a short drive from town.
Below are some details on holiday events in New Mexico.
- Albuquerque: River of Lights
At the Albuquerque Biological Park throughout December, this event features hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights, plus family activities, entertainment, food, crafts, dinner with Santa, and dinner with Father Time.
- Albuquerque and Santa Fe: Luminarias (or "Farolitos")
On Christmas Eve, the main plazas of both these cities are decorated with thousands of luminarias. In Santa Fe, cider is served, carols are sung and groups walk to the nearby Cross of the Martyrs.
Christmas Events in Santa Fe
In Santa Fe, families can also enjoy an annual Winter Spanish Market, a special Midnight Mass, and a traditional "Las Posadas" play about Mary and Joseph's search for a room in Bethlehem. A yearly "Christmas at the Palace" event at the Palace of the Governors combines Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American traditions, and families will find carols, story-telling, native dances, and an appearance by Santa Claus.
- Native American Dances
A number of pueblos are located near Santa Fe and Taos, and visitors have an opportunity to attend native dances during the holiday season. A number of traditional dances during the winter months honor animals; some pueblos also have torchlight processions of the Virgin on Christmas Eve, and dances on Christmas Day. Read more at www.indianpueblo.org.