In Santa Fe, farolitos line the streets and houses, giving our fair city it’s own distinct twinkle in the midst of the Christmas season. The lights are placed in lines and rows on the ground along streets, sidewalks, on porches, atop roofs, and around plazas. In a place that has a large Catholic population, these lights traditionally have had a religious significance for lighting the way of the Holy Family on Christmas Eve.
Every Christmas Eve, thousands of people flock to Canyon Road to do the farolito walk. This Santa Fe event brings the community together like no other: people sing carols together, sip warm cider, and bask in the Christmas spirit.
Luminarias, on the other hand, are fires of stacked piñon placed in front of churches, homes, and throughout the Pueblos; also for light and warmth.
But, maybe you’ve heard one referred to as the other. Are they interchangeable terms? Which is which? This question almost rivals the official state question, red or green? Down south Albuquerque way, you may hear these homemade lunch sack lights referred to as luminarias, but in Santa Fe, they are known as farolitos. There is a belief that the words divide the state geographically, with farolito prevailing in the northern part of New Mexico and luminaria prevailing in the southern part of New Mexico.
What really matters though, is how you, too, can make this homemade regional tradition part of your holiday adornment. Here is the “How To Farolito” from SantaFe.com. Happy holidays!
What you need for farolitos:
- A supply of paper lunch sacks. They are super inexpensive; a 50 count supply runs about $2, and you can find them at most grocery stores.
- One tea light per bag. You can find regular candle tea lights for about $6 per 100, or a 6-pack of rechargeable LED tea lights are around $30. Look in your grocery store or local big-box, or REI.
- Sand or gravel to weigh down the bag and secure a place for the tea light, about 2 cups per bag.
- Long-stem matches or a lighter to fire up candle tea lights.
- Unfold the paper bags and puff each bag out to its full capacity. You might like to cut it down in size, too, as this makes it easier to place the candle inside and light.
- Place approximately two cups of gravel or sand at the base of each bag.
- Arrange where you want them, then light your tea lights. Gently lower them into the bags, or use a long nozzled lighter to reach the wick in the bag. Make sure that the flame does not brush or touch the edge of the bags.
- Enjoy the festive pathway you have created!