Holidays in Santa Fe, New Mexico are an unexpected pleasure. Most visitors come when the temperatures are warm and the schedule is packed with major art markets, culinary events, and performances. The holidays have every bit as much sophistication, variety, and artistry, but at a more gentle pace. It’s at this time that the city’s Old World traditions shine most brightly, and it’s a perfect time for families and couples who want something just a little different for their holiday celebration.
Santa Fe’s historic adobe buildings are never more beautiful than when they are frosted with snow. Snow is abundant in the nearby mountains and Ski Santa Fe is in full swing with skiing and snowboarding for all ages and abilities. But even in winter, there are plenty of sunny, temperate days for those who would rather explore galleries, shops, spas, museums, and cafés. The performance calendar is filled with holiday music, shops are overflowing with unique gifts, restaurants cook special menus, and visitors are made to feel like neighbors. Another holiday surprise—hotel rates are generally lower in winter and attractive packages are available.
Best of all, Santa Fe celebrates like no other city in America. Its long history as an important place to Native Americans, a Spanish colony, and capital of the Old West have brought rich, multi-cultural traditions that have flourished through hundreds of years. It seems that almost every day brings a new event.
The below events offer a glimpse into what the holiday season in Santa Fe entails:
December 13 – Christmas at the Palace: The Palace of the Governors, a 400-year-old adobe building that once housed Spanish officials, is a magical setting for this old-fashioned Christmas party. Spanish and Native American traditions are celebrated and there is music, entertainment and hot cider for all, plus a special visit by Mr. and Mrs. Claus. For more information, visit www.nmhistorymuseum.org
December 15 – Las Posadas: Bundle up for this centuries-old Spanish tradition that takes place at night, outdoors on the festively decorated Plaza. The folk play depicts the search for shelter by Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve. The crowd carries candles and follows the action, including energetically booing the love-to-hate devils. Everyone is invited for cookies and cider after at the Palace of the Governors. For more information, visit www.nmhistorymuseum.org
Midnight Mass: This mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is a colorful, musical event that incorporates an old Spanish tale about an aged rooster who greeted the Christ Child with his joyful crow. The cathedral itself is lavishly decorated and lit reflecting its Native American and Spanish heritage.
Music, Music, Music: There are concerts galore around the holidays, some in intimate settings such as the Loretto Chapel and Saint Francis Auditorium. At the Lensic Performing Arts Center, there is a Celtic Holiday Concert by the choral group, Donnell Leahy & Family on December 3. The Santa Fe Concert Association presents its gala annual concerts on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and the Santa Fe Symphony performs Christmas Treasures on December 15. For more information, visit www.lensic.org. Most musical organizations schedule their events closer to the holidays, so visit www.santafe.org for updates.
Farolitos: Santa Fe glitters with twinkling amber lights on Christmas Eve. Humble materials—paper bags weighted with sand and filled with candles–line streets, fences, rooftops, and entire neighborhoods. The result is pure magic. The Santa Fe Plaza is decked in 1,000 farolitos at dusk as revelers gather for cookies and cider. From there, many walk to the top of the Cross of the Martyrs lit with farolitos and bonfires. The big Xmas Eve walk is along Canyon Road and through the Eastside neighborhoods where every surface is covered with farolitons, luminarias–small bonfires–are burning and surrounded by carolers, Christmas tidings are exchanged between friends and neighbors and everyone is filled with holiday spirit.
Native American Dances: Ceremonial Native American dances are beautiful and spiritual to watch. There are many of them at nearby pueblos during the holiday season, starting in mid-December and especially on Christmas Eve and Day. Ceremonial dances are especially popular on King’s Day, January 6. Check www.miaclab.org/42 for listings and important etiquette for these religious events.
For any additional information, visit www.santafe.org.
Information courtesy: Santa Fe CVB