Best Things to Do in December
The holiday season in Santa Fe is a magical time, filled with revelry, joy and light. The city is aglow with farolitos and trees wrapped in colorful lights. Caroling, holiday parties, open houses and community celebrations spread good cheer throughout the city in this final month of the year. Nowhere else can you experience the timeless traditions of three cultures—Native American, Hispano and Anglo—interwoven into pageantry, splendor and fun for the whole family. Walk through an enchanted garden filled with dazzling light displays. Watch a puppet show performed by beloved and historic marionettes. Meet Santa Claus in an historic palace, and stroll fabled Canyon Road, gloriously illuminated by farolitos on Christmas Eve. No doubt about it, this is one of most joyous times to be in Santa Fe.
Let it Glow, Let it Glow, Let it Glow
Revel in the sight of thousands of twinkling lights at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden during GLOW-A Winter Lights Event. This annual tradition, held throughout December, will fill your heart with the spirit of the season as you wind your way on garden paths, admiring large-scale light installations and spectacular laser shows set against the nighttime sky. Warm up with hot chocolate, introduce the little ones to Santa and dance to your heart's delight in the Pavillion to live music from some of Santa Fe's best-loved bands. Half Broke Horses plays on December 7, The Bus Tapes on December 8, Stephanie Hatfield and Bill Palmer on December 13 and Nosostros on December 20. There's much more music on tap, so check the website to see the full schedule.
The Pageant of Las Posadas
The hallowed search by Mary and Joseph for a place of shelter before the birth of Jesus is commemorated with Las Posadas, a religious event celebrated around the world. In Santa Fe, this free annual tradition takes place on Sunday, December 8, starting in the Plaza at 5:30 p.m, A candle-lit procession will make its way around the Plaza as Mary and Joseph's journey is re-enacted, ending in the Palace of the Governors' courtyard with carols, hot cider and cookies for all.
Fabulously Festive Farolitos
The annual Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road is understandably one of Santa Fe's best-loved events. The one-mile stretch of this fabled road, lined with galleries and shops, is illuminated by thousands of farolitos that line the street, the adobe walls, the trees and even the neighboring streets—as far as you can see. This holiday walk offers a magical way to celebrate the spirit of the season, as revelers sing Christmas carols as they gather around luminarias, or bonfires, that warm the heart as much as the soul. Or you can join the crowds merrily belting out carols as they stroll along the street. The adventure begins at dusk. Be sure to dress warmly.
Holiday On the Hill
Find tons of holiday fun at the annual Museum Hill Holiday Stroll, December 13 from 4 to 7 pm. A trio of museums on the hill will offer free admission, live music, holiday refreshments, art-making and much more. At the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, for instance, you can listen to a Tewa women's choir, watch Native American dances, make your own ornaments and marvel at the lighting of an outdoor tree. The Museum of International Folk Art hosts a paint-your-own gourd event as well as a performance of flamenco holiday song and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian serves cider and biscochitos and offers discounts for your holiday shopping.
A Palatial Celebration
For nearly 40 years, Christmas at the Palace has brought joy and wonder to the hearts of locals and visitors alike. One of the best-loved holiday celebrations in Santa Fe, this free event brings people of all ages together to celebrate the season, with live music, hot cider and cookies and a chance to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus, in the magical setting of the historic Palace of the Governors and Courtyard. Walk through the hallways of history, then outside into the festive night, singing holiday carols and greeting old friends and new. Try your hand at operating an antique printing press and enjoy other old-fashioned activities, The event takes place on December 13, from 5:30 to 8 p pm.
Puppets on Parade
Puppets take front and center stage during the New Mexico Museum of Art's Holiday Open House, an annual family tradition held December 22, from noon to 4 pm. Beloved printmaker Gustave Baumann began carving his marvelous marionettes in the 1930s to entertain his daughter on Christmas. Those marionettes are still entertaining children, thanks to the museum which has restored and replicated some of the peppy puppets, bringing them out once a year for the big holiday party. Puppet plays will be performed at 1:30 and 3 pm by Teatro Duende, and children will go on a treasure hunt to find Freckles, the marionette who's always hiding away somewhere in the museum. Kids can make their own stick puppets and enjoy other art-making activities, too. Don't miss a photo opp with the Baumann Santa marionette, who'll put in an appearance from 3:30 to 4 pm.
Many of the northern New Mexico pueblos honor the season with sacred dances on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, dances that date back centuries and honor the pueblo's ancestral beginnings. The Deer Dance, the Buffalo Dance, Los Matachines and many more honor the seasons and other significant dates in the Pueblo calendar. Some pueblos dance on Christmas Eve following Midnight Mass and others dance on Christmas Day. No matter when you attend these dances, be respectful and follow the rules of etiquette for each ceremony and pueblo. Learn more, and find the pueblo dance schedules here.