The Holidays in Santa Fe: A To-Do List | - November 17, 2011

"The city hosts a virtual parade of holiday events"

There's no other place like Santa Fe during the holidays. From the twinkling farolitos that line Canyon Road on Christmas Eve to the ceremonial dances on the Indian Pueblos, the scent of pinon fires filling the air and the sound of carols sung by young and old in the ancient churches, Santa Fe is a magical place to be for the holidays.

The city hosts a virtual parade of holiday events, starting with the annual singing of Handel's Messiah by the Santa Fe Symphony & Chorus and the lighting of the holiday tree on the Plaza.

Here's a list of the major events taking place in Santa Fe this holiday season:

Pueblo Dances

The Indian Pueblos hold ceremonial dances throughout the holiday season, beautiful rituals accompanied by drums and feasting. From the Deer and Turtle dances to the mysterious Las Matachines, Buffalo Dance and other symbolic rituals, these are powerful, ceremonial events. You are invited to watch these dances, but please observe etiquette and do not take pictures, record or talk during the dances. Held throughout the holiday season. Click here for more information.

Canyon Road Farolito Walk

A Christmas Eve favorite in Santa Fe, where thousands walk the farolito-lined Canyon Road, singing carols as they gather around luminaries, small bonfires that keep the cold away. You'll find traveling musicians playing holiday favorites, roadside stands serving hot cider, and revelers singing "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" in harmony. Begins at dusk on Christmas Eve.

Santa Fe Southern Holiday Trains
The Santa Fe Southern Railway offers historic train rides from the downtown Santa Fe Depot to Lamy, once the site of a Harvey House hotel and a former railroad town. The holiday excursions include the Caroling ride, featuring singing with musicians; the Storybook Train Ride, with a reading of The Polar Express; and the Caroling Santa Hot Shot Train, with a visit from Santa Fe! December 16 through 30. Click here for more information.

Out of Town

Madrid's Christmas Open House & Holiday Light Displays
The Madrid holiday light displays date back to the town's mining days, when the miners and their families decorated the streets with more than 100,000 festive lights of Christmas scenes. The displays became so famous, commercial airline pilots diverted their flights during the holidays over Madrid so passengers could admire them. Madrid continues the tradition of holiday light displays as the town hosts its 29th annual Christmas Open House, with free hot chocolate, cider and cookies served by shops that stay open late. You can also enjoy stagecoach rides, a Christmas parade, live music and, of course, the brilliant holiday light displays. Weekends December 3 through 24. Click here for more information.

Albuquerque's River of Lights
Walk through a dazzling light display at Albuquerque's Botanic Garden, where hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights are shaped in sculptures, scenes and holiday displays. This year's theme is a voyage beneath the sea, and lights will create a tableau of life-size creatures, from angelfish and octopus to sea turtles, humpback whales, stingrays and more. November 26 to December 30.

Taos Pueblo's Christmas Eve Celebration
Taos Pueblo's Christmas Eve traditions include vespers in San Geronimo's Chapel, followed by a procession with the statue of the Virgin Mary. On Christmas Day, Taos Pueblo dancers and drummers will fill the plaza for the Deer or Matachines dance. The pueblo is more than 1,000 years old, and a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Mark Your Calendar For Next Year

Handel's Messiah
This annual tradition in Santa Fe unofficially opens the holiday season. The Santa Fe Symphony & Chorus, under the baton of Steven Smith, perform Handel's beloved classic, The Messiah, with renowned soloists, soprano Devon Guthrie, Luci Servoni, mezzo-soprano, Jorge Prego, tenor and Bradley Ellingboe, bass-baritone. 4 p.m. Sunday, November 20 at The Lensic Performing Arts Center. Click here for more information.

Annual Lighting of the Holiday Tree on the Plaza
It's a tradition in Santa Fe to kick off the holidays with the lighting of a giant fir tree bedecked in festive lights on the Santa Fe Plaza, on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Crowds turn out to watch the mayor turn on the lights, and officially welcome in the holiday season. Thursday, November 24.

The Nutcracker
More than 60 ballet dancers, actors and circus artists take to the stage to bring the beloved Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker to life. The annual performance by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is one of Santa Fe's favorite ways to usher in the holiday season. 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 3 and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, December 4 at The Lensic Performing Arts Center.

Winter Celebration on Museum Hill
The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture throws open its doors to the community, offering seasonal activities that illuminate Native culture at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and celebrate winter at the Museum of International Folk Art. This is a family affair, so be sure to bring the kids. 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. Click here for more information.

Spanish Winter Market
Find great holiday gifts at the annual Spanish Winter Market, a downsized version of the summer's Spanish Market on the Plaza. Spanish Colonial artists working with traditions handed down to them by their ancestors sell their jewelry, furniture, hand-carved, wooden saints and more. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, December 3; 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, December 4. At the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Click here for more information.

Christmas at the Palace
One of Santa Fe's most beloved holiday traditions, Christmas at the Palace presents a free family event with live music, entertainment and visit from Santa, and Mrs. Claus! The event includes cider and biscochitos (the state's official cookie). 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, December 9 at the Palace of the Governors. Click here for more information.

Las Posadas
This annual, candlelit procession around the Plaza re-enacts Mary and Joseph's search for an inn. The play begins at the Palace of the Governors then heads over to the Plaza, where the couple is heckled by the Devil from the rooftops. After the drama concludes, everyone returns to the Palace for biscochitos, cider and carols. Sunday, December 11, 5:30-7 p.m. Click here for more information.

Baumann Marionette Holiday Performance
Gustave Baumann, a celebrated German artist, was one of the leading figures in America's color woodcut revival. In 1918, he settled in Santa Fe, where he made woodcuts, oils and sculpture. He also carved a group of marionettes that have been lovingly restored by the New Mexico Museum of Art. Every December, the museum brings them out for the Annual Holiday Open House, which includes a puppet performance, a family art project, holiday music and a gallery treasure hunt. 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, December 18. Click here for more information.

Photos courtesy of Santa Fe, New Mexico Convention & Visitors Bureau.