December 6, 2012

Noche de Luminarias

The month of December is a fantastic culture explosion surrounding the holidays. There are special foods, festivals, displays, all wrapped around the holidays to create a very special feeling. We arrived in Las Cruces just before Thanksgiving last year and were so involved with finding a home, moving in, settling in, and adjusting to the retired life, that some of these cultural experiences just passed us by. We got to some things but they really are just a blur right now. I thought I would get back into the blogging spirit by talking about the holiday spirit and culture here.

I begin with Noche de Luminarias or “The Night of Lights”.  Holiday decorating here in New Mexico is somewhat traditional with a southwest flair but the culture, specifically Hispanic/Mexican, is a very prominent influence.

From Wikipedia: “A luminaria or farolito is a small paper lantern (commonly a candle set in some sand inside a paper bag) which is of significance in New Mexico and some neighboring states at Christmas time, especially on Christmas Eve. Farolitos have to some extent replaced the older tradition of the vigil fire luminaria with which they became confused. The name of the decoration is the subject of a long-running dispute in New Mexico. In general, farolito is the preferred term in Santa Fe and other parts of northern New Mexico, while the decorations are often referred to as luminarias elsewhere. In Spanish, the word farolito translates as "little lantern", while luminaria means "festival light". Historically luminaria referred not to a paper lantern but to a small festival or vigil bonfire; however, this distinction is not commonly made outside of northern New Mexico.

Our friends Lou and Karen, dove right into this controversy and simply refer to them as “candlebaggios” and now we all call them the same thing. It is interesting when we refer to them that way in front of a non-believer who looks at us quizzically.

On the campus of NMSU on Sunday night, the holiday season officially (Wal-Mart would disagree, saying the holiday season starts in late September) began with Noche de Luminarias. There were almost 6500 paper lanterns set up on the campus while horse drawn carriage rides and traditional dancing went on in various places. Our group of friends went out for pizza, then head over to the campus just as dusk arrived. What followed was a couple of hours of walking the rolling hills, looking at the lanterns and their reflections in the duck pond and just drawing in the feelings of the season.

Afterwards we went to the opening of a local bistro and sat outside having drinks and trying some of the food. I’m not sure what was more amazing, the lanterns on campus or sitting outside at a local cafe on December 1. Both I guess, but I only took photos of the lights. Here are a few:

Here is the link to the album with a bunch more on Facebook or Flickr. Hope you enjoy them!


Anonymous said...

That's a lotta frickin' candles! I'm hoping the Lobos score as many points during the regular season as candle baggios you guys saw. Thanks for the cool pictures, Pat, and um...Ho, Ho, Lindsay Lohan.


bob said...

Nice to have you back. Hopeall are well.

clairz said...

Lovely memories of a lovely evening.

Joyful said...

Beautiful! I think it is a lovely tradition.

Kate said...

I came here from Claire's blog who mentioned your photos that are indeed lovely. I have my sidewalk and driveway lined with farolitos here in Minnesota every Christmas. Love NM!