Christmas in Santa Fe is one of our favorite times of the year. The Catholic traditions of the city’s Spanish founders are especially evident this time of year. The downtown areas glitter with holiday lights. In addition, there are lots of annual activities that make the holiday season special. The City Different is a magical place for the holidays; it’s a great time to plan a visit.
Traditionally at Christmas time, roofs, balconies and walkways were decorated with farolitos (paper bags filled with sand and a burning votive candle) on Christmas Eve. In recent years, with the availability of strings of electric farolitos, they appear on buildings all over the downtown area beginning around Thanksgiving. When it snows, Santa Fe turns into a winter wonderland.
Canyon Road Farolito Walk
Christmas Eve, the town gathers on historic Canyon Road, home to many of the city’s over 200 galleries, some shops and a few restaurants. The street is closed to traffic, thousands walk up and down the road greeting friends, spontaneously breaking into song and enjoying luminarias (piñon wood bonfires) burning along the street. People stop to warm their hands, farolitos, candles set atop sand-filled in paper bags burn merrily along the way. Some people have strings of fauxlitos (strings of plastic electrified farolitos) The street is ablaze with thousands of fairy lights. It feels like the whole city has turned out for the festivities. Some shops and galleries stay open. Hot chocolate, cider and cookies are offered along the way by merchants and others sharing the holiday spirit. A white Christmas makes the scene seems even more magical.
Later in the evening, people head to Midnight mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis de Assisi. The doors open at 10:30pm and the church fills up so plan to arrive early. Lessons and Carols begin at 11:00p.m. By the time Mass starts, there is not a seat in the house. The interior of the beautiful cathedral merges the traditions of Catholicism with the traditions of New Mexico. It is a special place to spend the end of Christmas Eve.
If you want an earlier Mass, San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the United States (originally dating to 1610) has one at 7pm. They are at 401 Old Santa Fe Trail.
On Christmas Day, the city virtually closes down. Make your dinner plans in advance. Some restaurants are closed for the holiday and many fill up. To make sure to get the place and time you want, reserve early.
Most places close for the holiday. Here are a few things you can do: Ski Santa Fe is open and it’s a great time to get outdoors and ski, snowboard, snowshoe or hike. Many of New Mexico’s Pueblo have dances on Christmas Day. If you are interested in Pueblo life, put at least one of these are your Santa Fe itinerary. These dances, passed down for countless generations, are part of what makes Christmas in New Mexico special for many.
If you plan to be in Santa Fe for Christmas, you’ll find lots of ways to celebrate the holidays. If you want expert assistance planning your visit, contact The Santa Fe Travelers.
Have you ever spent Christmas Eve in Santa Fe? Fo you have any stories to share?