Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Other New Mexico Christmas Traditions

The above pic is from Old Town - the oldest portion of Albuquerque. 

Luminarias are basically paper bags filled with a bit of sand and a lit candle placed in the center.  Y'all have Christmas lights and decorations - New Mexicans have luminarias.

pages.prodigy.net/ pam.orman/JoeColor.html

Some people call these farolitos (little lanterns) and its always a big needless debate about which is more appropriate.  I grew up here, we've always called them luminarias, so that's what they are to me.  Some native New Mexicans (usually the nortenos from Santa Fe and Taos) say that luminarias are little bonfires, and what I'm talking about are farolitos.  Whatever you want to call them - we'll know what they are.

Anyway, the story goes that in the sixteenth century, small bonfires (luminarias) were lit to guide people to midnight mass.  In the early nineteenth century, US settlers brought Chinese paper lanterns and hung them instead of lighting the bonfires.  Always thinking of a cheaper easier route, native New Mexicans used small paper bags for their lanterns, and farolitos were born.  My Louie was raised in northern New Mexico and remembers these traditions from being in that small town (which I think is totally cool).  Disclaimer: I'm not Catholic, so I'm no expert about Christmas Mass.  This is stuff I've learned by just being here.

The night of Las Posadas (means an inn or a place of lodging in Spanish) is a celebration introduced to Mexican Indians by European missionaries.  The idea was to reenact the story of Mary and Joseph's quest to find a place to stay in Bethlehem.  Beginning on December 16, it lasted nine nights.  Each night carolers would go from house to house singing a spanish song asking for food and shelter.  The people in the houses would offer traditional foods like posole, chile stews, tamales, biscochitos and empanadas. 

(key:  posole (poh-so-lee) is hominy with pork and red or green chile. Tamales (tah-mah-lays) are harder to explain - take a corn husk, put maza (dough made with corn meal) in it, roll it up with pork and red or green chile, and steam it.  Biscochitos - recipe on previous entry. Empanadas are little pies that you can stuff with basically anything.  Lots of people deep fry them, but I'm going to try baking them.)

Anyway now Las Posadas is on Christmas Eve.  After everyone is finished eating those traditional foods, the idea is that the luminarias light the way to Christmas Mass.  SAFETY NOTE:  If you choose to put them on your home like this, (see below) its best to stick regular white lights inside - these guys are prone to tip in the wind.

Usually on the days leading up to Christmas Eve (and on Christmas Eve itself) people go strolling and/or driving around to check out the luminarias.  Old Town (first pic) is a great place to walk around because there are usually carollers there, and there are bus tours and other things to take advantage of.

This last weekend, Louie, Kayla, Emily and I went to Traditions (an outlet center) outside of town to see a huge light display.  They even had a real horse-drawn carriage ride.  It was awesome.

Come on over!

Sidenote:  Anyone know how to insert Spanish characters into journal text? 

Anyway, this is a beautiful time of the year here in New Mexico, and hopefully someday everyone can come and check it out themselves.  I've cited the source for the pics to CMA.


Have a wonderful Tuesday!



kuhlhiggins said...

The picture of Old Town is very pretty. I would love to come and check New Mexico out. Maybe one day.

slowmotionlife said...

These are so beautiful.  I'd love to do a line of them in front of the house on Christmas Eve... they're just paper bags with sand and tealight candles in them, right?  Great entry!!  :D

phlskygirl said...

¡Felíz Cumpleaños, Norte America!  Ok... just checking.  The whole alt + numbers thing works on Journal entries.  I'll be emailing them to you soon.  Remind me if I forget.

phlskygirl said...

P.S.  Tell those pesky new mexiconians (heh) that luminarias and farolitos are the same damn thing!  It's like correcting some Brit over "torch" and "flashlight"... same diff!  Get over your cornmeal-fattened arses!  Ooh, speaking of fat butts, puerto ricans do something similar to las posadas as well, except among friends it's a house-to-house trolling of booze, not food!  There's even a Christmas carol about it... "Si no me dan de beber, lloro, si no me dan de beber, lloro...!"