Friday, December 25, 2009

The lights of Christmas

This time of year is all about light, of course- since the nights are so long, and various religions celebrate light in different ways. Here in New Mexico, there is the persistent influence of Hispanic tradition, and Christmas eve is the night that the farolitos and luminarias are everywhere.

I think sometimes they are both used to describe the candle placed in sand inside a paper bag, but I looked it up and the luminaria is actually the bonfire lit outside a home on Christmas Eve. Both are meant to show Jesus where to show up, I guess. Farolitos are everywhere all winter here, in fact there are artificial electrical ones that many people put out, but they, too, are the traditional Christmas Eve decoration. On Canyon Road, where many galleries are, and the streets surrounding it, like Acequia Madre, people decorate with hundreds of farolitos and some also have luminarias burning in front. The bonfires are often of pinon, so they are very fragrant. The whole city shows up to walk around and look at the beautiful patterns of light, stopping at the bonfires to sing carols, stopping in where cider is simmering on the stove, watching "farolito balloons" being launched into the air by candle power. It's way cold, so you have to really bundle up. Luckily last night the wind was pretty still, but I had on a tank top, a thin turtleneck, a heavy sweater, my down coat, and a down vest unattractively zipped on over the coat, plus long johns, jeans, wool socks, waterproof Merrell boots I bought here, hat, neckie thing, heavy gloves. I actually did pretty well with the cold, because most of the time we were walking. It went down into the single digits last night and will for the next few nights, but the sun is out right now.

I would not have been able to take decent photos without a flash and I didn't drag my camera with me so I'm using stuff I found on the internets- and my apologies to their authors, not readily available to identify.

In this photo you can see how people make patterns with the farolitos.

This one was taken on Canyon Road.

I found myself singing rousing versions of Christmas songs, remembering every word from my days of high school choir. Back then, there was no politically correct inclusion of Chanukah songs (which would be pretty lame, anyway) or- what, Kwanzaa? Nobody had heard of that then. So yes, Come all ye faithful and behold Christ the Lord, I'm right in there with you. As a New Yorker, I was pretty amazed at the sense of openness to singing in public. At one point, a woman came over to where we were standing, singing "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." I only knew that one line from the song, but she kept gesticulating while she was singing, like Join In, and even though I said, I don't know the song, she seemed disappointed, like I was ruining the fun.

It was really beautiful and although there were tons of people out walking around it was all very orderly and celebratory for the most part. Always a few rowdies, but nothing to get all upset about. I wouldn't want to live in that area, beautiful as it is. First of all, it's historic, so there are numerous restrictions of what you can do with your house. And then to know, every year on Christmas eve, you have to be lighting candles and making cider for the city of Santa Fe- what if you Just Weren't In the Mood that night? Oy, I have a ways to go before feeling like I belong here.

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