Four reasons to consider Santa Fe during the holidays
I am a bit biassed when it comes to my home state and especially the city I called home for the majority of my life. For as long as I can remember, Santa Fe has always made it on all the travel magazines/blogs top ten lists for many of the reasons I will also include below but there is a certain je ne sais quoi during the holidays that is rare (or becoming more rare) for cities in the USA. Have you always dreamed of visiting cute holiday markets in Europe but the expense or distance has prevented you from making that trip a reality? Well, here are a few reasons I believe everyone should consider visiting Santa Fe but especially during the holidays.
Farolitos/Luminarias - You might be asking yourself what is a farolito? What is the difference between a farolito and a luminaria? Farolitos are brown (yes must be brown) paper bags filled with sand, dirt or sometimes rocks and a small votive candle placed inside. Luminarias are what non-locals or those from Albuquerque call them and we always jest with one another about the proper name…but a local Santa Fean would never be caught dead calling them a luminaria. Today, they have even created fake electric versions of these but the effect is the same. In Santa Fe, we put our farolitos on the tops of our adobe buildings, whether that be churches, offices, apartments or homes, some choose to line their driveways or along entire streets. The days leading up to Christmas Eve, but especially on Christmas Eve, the candles inside the bags are lit at dusk and the effect is quite magical. Imagine a city that so far has very little to no light pollution and because of it being a high altitude desert and its location are able to see the entire starry night sky especially in the winter months where seeing the Milky Way to the naked eye is quite common. If we are lucky these days we will get a white Chirtmas. One where fat chunky snow falls slowly from the sky adorning our trees and mountain tops with a cosy white blanket - the effect somehow makes our mountains (the end of the Rocky Mountain range) even more dramatic and stunning. The character of these mountains sharpen, becoming more wise in contrast to the vast mesa tops in between. The way the light hits the snow throughout this dramatic landscape has a spiritual quality to it…as if this natural beauty is on display for only you. While Santa Fe has become larger in population over the past decade it still maintains a small village type vibe similar to that in Europe; however, a short five minute drive out of town and you can find yourself the only person around for miles. Fancy going downhill or cross-country skiing/snowshoeing? We have that too! There’s a reason so many artists and those looking for inspiration from the environment have flocked to “The Land of Enchantment” for hundreds of years now. There is something special that can never quite be summarized by words even by us locals…it is something that has to be felt and experienced.
Part of that experience is the melding of culture and location. On Christmas Eve all the locals and visitors alike descend on the famous “Canyon Road” filled with high end art galleries in old adobe homes, some that were built by famous architects. This is an example of how the local hispanic catholic tradition of posadas has transitioned through into our art culture and combined the two. The street is filled with families and friends of all ages singing carols, standing by small luminarias made of piñon wood to keep warm before walking on to the next house and almost certainly running into other extended friends or family that have all returned home for this very tradition. Some of these homes are in fact still homes and for as long as anyone can remember the owners have opened their doors to friends and strangers alike. Many still serve hot cocoa, atole, bizcochitos (our state cookie) or other types of christmas cookies, posole, hot cider, and if you’re lucky and come early perhaps even beer and wine. Many of these galleries create elaborate light displays, one homeowner was legendary for always putting out a very large toy train set.
I’ve already mentioned some of our traditional holiday foods but if you’re a spice lover then New Mexico is the destination for you. Santa Fe has become known for having many James Beard Award winning restaurants and many more that have been featured on the Food Network. There is no shortage of good food and drink in Santa Fe. You can sit by the roaring fireplace at Hotel St. Francis sipping on a prickly pear margarita after having chile rellenos or what we call “christmas” enchiladas (smothered with red and green chile) from The Shed, pozole from Cafe Pasquals or freshly made tamales from Posas. If you prefer lighter fare you may want to try the salads at Vinaigrette or if you’re looking for a fine dining experience Geronimos is the best in that department. Whether you’re looking for French, Italian, Spanish, Asian or our local New Mexican cuisine we’ve got it all and with our own little twist.
Last but certainly not least is the people. I am most certainly biassed as this is my hometown - and as you’ve hopefully learned, very beloved by its people who have called it home for generations and those that came here but never left. We’re weird, quirky, artsy-fartsy and very much a proud people. We have always boasted a reputation for taking all types of people from all walks of life and in my experience that has been true. So in that vein I welcome you. Que viva Santa Fe!