A Holiday Tradition in Santa Fe
By : Nancy Zimmerman
The Christmas Eve candlelit Farolito Walk brings Santa Fe residents and visitors together in a unique expression of seasonal cheer.
Befitting of a city whose name means “holy faith,” Santa Fe is at its most magical during the Christmas season. A favorite among its many distinctive celebrations is the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk along Canyon Road. This candlelit stroll through the town’s historic district at dusk brings Santa Fe residents and visitors together in a unique expression of seasonal cheer.
Farolitos, or little lanterns, are votive candles anchored in sand inside small brown paper bags that are set along the flat roofs and adobe walls throughout the city. These are said to light the path for baby Jesus to find his way to homes and businesses and infuse them with the Christmas spirit. They pop up all over town in December throughout New Mexico—though they go by luminarias in Albuquerque and points south.
No one remembers exactly when the Canyon Road ritual first began, but most people believe it was initiated sometime in the 1970s, when residents in the area invited friends from around town to stroll through their centuries-old neighborhood at sundown to enjoy the simple beauty of hundreds of candles lining the streets and homes in an atmosphere of reverence and fellowship. The event has changed little over the decades. Some homeowners build festival bonfires of piñon wood to help participants ward off the winter chill. Others extend the spontaneous hospitality for which Santa Fe is known by inviting those walking by into their homes for a warm drink, a bizcochito (New Mexico’s official state cookie) and a heartfelt exchange of holiday wishes.
In recent years, Canyon Road’s art galleries have joined in the celebration, offering displays of Christmas lights, music performances and refreshments; but the true spirit of the Farolito Walk remains the soft glow of candlelight, the camaraderie of carolers and the aroma of piñon fires filling the air.
Mayor David Coss, a native of Santa Fe, has fond memories of joining the walk over the years, and he encourages visitors to do the same. “The Farolito Walk highlights our culture and tradition,” he says. “It’s a beautiful gathering of friends, neighbors and guests. So dress warmly and join us for some hot chocolate and carols at this wonderful Christmas event!” farolitowalk.com
How To Get There
American Airlines serves Santa Fe with daily service from Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth. Visit aa.com.