The little paper bags, filled with sand and candles that line the roofs and walkways here in Northern New Mexico during the Holiday Season are often referred to as luminarias but according to many of the Old-timers here, that is just wrong.
Luminarias are Christmas bonfires, I’ve been assured by many over the three decades I’ve lived here in Taos. The little paper lanterns are farolitos.
No matter what you decide to call them, firelight is a major theme for the Holidays in the Land Of Enchantment!
From the Lighting of Ledoux (which has become a Holiday tradition here in Taos since its inception less than two decades ago), the Bonfires On Bent to the Christmas Eve Luminarias at the Village in Taos Pueblo, fire lights the Season.
The kiva fireplaces in private residences, Hotels and Bed&Breakfast Inns, are ablaze with fragrant cedar and pinon scenting the air all over town, announcing that Winter has arrived and with the snows and the frost, a myriad of heart and soul-warming traditions to accompany it. Not least of them, is food!
In private homes as well as in our finest eateries, Seasonal foods are simmering on stoves and baking in ovens: Warming chile stews, tamales, empanadas, posole, chicos, bizcochitos – they’re New Mexico’s soul foods – the nourishing anecdote to our long cold Winters.
Winter in Taos, Mabel Dodge Luhan informs us (in her seminal book titled the same) has its own set of rituals. “When we shake off the snow,” she writes, “and go in the house, there is a warm smell of the narcissus and hyacinths that bloom all winter there, and of freesia and jonquils in vases, lovely in the firelight with hot tea and cinnamon toast.”
“But not more lovely,” she reminds us, ” than the cold, oderless world of ice and snow, where the pinon, cedar and sage are pungent with the magical oils they draw from the deep, living earth.”
Photographs of the John Dunn Shops by Bill Curry