Grab your bag, jump in the car, or on the plane and head to Albuquerque or Santa Fe during December, and you’ll find a truly amazing and beautiful tradition spread throughout the cities. Luminarias (and/or farolitos) adorn rooftops and sidewalks, lighting the way for residents and visitors to homes, businesses, and churches.
Traditionally, the luminaria is a stacked cube of pińon branches burned as a lantern. Today, the luminaria is commonly referred to as what is traditionally called a “farolito,” or brown paper bag containing sand and a tea light candle. The terms are now mostly interchangeable throughout the state.
For some New Mexican communities, the tradition is lighting one luminaria each night during the period called Las Posadas until the final ninth luminaria is lit. In Albuquerque, the tradition is at its peak on Christmas Eve, when most communities line the streets, sidewalks and rooftops with luminarias, and the city hosts a Luminaria Tour in Old Town and the Country Club neighborhood. This tour has become a renowned event, and hundreds of locals board buses at the Convention Center, and ride through the downtown/Old Town neighborhoods to experience the magic. Many people walk through these neighborhoods, stopping to chat with residents and sip on hot apple cider or hot cocoa as everyone appreciates the folklore of these radiant little bags. Old Town Plaza teems with people of all ages, smiling in awe at the glow. The luminarias burn throughout the evening and through the night of Christmas Eve.
This tradition is an extraordinarily beautiful sight, and brings a feeling of warmth and closeness to all communities throughout the cities as these glowing little bags mesmerize us at the wonder of the season.
So, bundle up and come on over, down, up, or just OUT to experience this tradition with us!