Annual Christmas events in Santa Fe

From Thanksgiving Weekend to the end of December, there are beloved annual Christmas events in Santa Fe. It’s a city that takes Christmas seriously, it has a strong Catholic heritage dating back over four centuries.

for Did you know that originally Santa Fe was named La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis. The city, founded over 400 years ago by Spanish conquistadores has strong and deep Catholic roots. The City Different takes Christmas seriously and it’s one of the best times of year to visit. While there’s skiing on the mountain, in town it could be sweater weather as it was on the long ago Christmas we visited or it could be downright cold. Part of the charm is you never know.

Here’s our list of annual Christmas events in Santa Fe”

Christmas tree lighting at the Santa Fe Plaza

Christmas on the Plaza, photo Steve Collins

Christmas on the Plaza, photo Steve Collins

The Friday of Thanksgiving weekend brings the annual lighting of the Santa Fe Plaza. Not just one tree is lit. Every tree in the historic square is filled with twinkling colored lights. Christmas in Santa Fe is enchanting. The event is accompanied with a lot of fanfare. Arrive early; the pre-light entertainment starts at 3pm and Santa arrives in a vintage fire truck at 4pm. When darkness falls the switch is thrown, and viola, the entire plaza lights up. It’s nothing short of magical.

Santa Fe Winter Indian Market

Shop at the Santa Fe Winter Indian Market, photo Steve Collins

Shop at the Santa Fe Winter Indian Market, photo Steve Collins

Santa Fe Indian Market is one of the pivotal events of the year in Santa Fe. The outdoor event, presented by Southwestern Association For Indian Arts (SWAIA) takes over the historic Santa Fe Plaza one weekend each August. The smaller Winter Market, held indoors at the Santa Fe Convention Center, takes place the Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving Weekend with a Friday evening preview event. There is an admission charge.

GLOW– A Winter Lights Event in the Garden

GLOW at Santa Fe Botanical Gardens, photo Steve Collins

GLOW at Santa Fe Botanical Gardens, photo Steve Collins

Santa Fe Botanical Garden’s annual GLOW – A Winter Lights Event in the Garden, lights up their museum hill site from Thursday, December 3rd through Saturday, January 2, 2019. The glowing winter wonderland not only glistens with fairy lights, there will be illuminated geodesic domes and visits from Santa as well. They also offer holiday food and drink. Check their schedule for music evenings and Santa appearances. Glow is open from Thursday through Saturday evenings from 5 to 8pm (last entry at 7:30). There is an admission charge; tickets can be purchased on their website or at the gate.

Annual Community Menorah Lighting

Menorah on the Plaza 2013, night 3, photo Steve Collins

Menorah on the Plaza 2013, night 3, photo Steve Collins

Santa Fe has a long Jewish tradition. Some of the first to arrive in the early 17th century were Conversos (Jews who converted during the Inquisition rather than flee) and crypto-Jews (those that outwardly practiced Catholicism but secretly kept their religious traditions). They did not publicly light menorahs. In the 19th century, there was an influx of Jewish merchants and there has been a Jewish community ever since. The 2015 menorah lighting commutating Chanukah, takes place on Sunday, December 6th at 3pm at the Santa Fe Plaza, includes speakers, refreshments and entertainment. The giant contemporary menorah, made by Israeli sculptor Ilan Ashkenazi, now a Santa Fe resident, will be lit each evening at 4:30pm through December 14th the last night of the eight-day celebration.

Christmas at the Palace

Christmas at the Palace, photo Steve Collins

Christmas at the Palace, photo Steve Collins

Christmas at the Palace takes place on Friday, December 11th at the Palace of the Governors (the oldest government building in continuous use in the USA), part of the New Mexico History Museum, from 5:30 to 8pm. The event popular with locals started in 1985. It always takes place held on the Friday before Las Posadas (see below). The historic building is all lit up and decorated for the holidays. Wander through and enjoy music, festive decorations and the museum itself. The courtyard is ablaze with farolitos (paper bags filled with sand and topped with a candle) and luminarias (piñon wood bonfires). Hot drinks and biscochitos (the New Mexico State Cookie) will be served. Children can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus. You’ll even find seasonally-themed piñatas, befitting the city’s Mexican heritage. This event is a winner for the entire family. Admission is free.

Las Posadas

Las Posadas, photo Steve Collins

Las Posadas, photo Steve Collins

Las Posadas is a reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for a room in Bethlehem. The candle-lit procession will be held on Sunday, December 13th at 5:30pm at the Palace of the Governors (on the Washington Avenue side). The procession then wends its way around the Plaza, picking up people along the way. The holy couple stops at an “inn” and all of a sudden the devil pops out of the darkness in a flash of light. He gestures menacingly at the couple and their followers while screaming curses at them in 16th century Spanish. The crowd boos. This is done three more times (once at each side of the Plaza). The walk culminates in the Palace’s courtyard where you can warm up with hot cider and biscochitos and enjoy the merrily crackling luminarias (traditional piñon bonfires).

New Mexico Museum of Art’s Annual Open House

Freckles and Don Miguelito are always part of the New Mexico Museum of Art Christmas, courtesy New Mexico Museum of Art

Freckles and Don Miguelito are always part of the New Mexico Museum of Art Christmas, courtesy New Mexico Museum of Art

Then Annual Open House at the New Mexico Museum of Art, on Sunday, December 20th from 1 to 4pm, is a popular family event. Replicas of famed Santa Fe artist Gustave Baumann’s hand-carved marionettes, created for his daughter in the 1930s, are featured in A Party for Papa Gus, a half-hour puppet show where Juan, Rosina, and Miguelito try very hard to get ready for a party and are thwarted by Warts, “the rascally duende with a heart of gold.” Shows are at 1 and 2:30pm. Kids can search for Freckles (Warts’ twin brother) who will be hiding in the museum’s galleries, following clues that lead from one place to the next. Kids who find Freckles win a prize. From 2 to 2:30pm and 3 to 3:30pm parents can snap their kids with the miniature Bauman Santa Claus sitting on their laps listening carefully to their wishes and dreams. Youngsters can make their own stick puppets throughout the afternoon and even perform with them at the Puppet Theater Playhouse. Holiday music will fill the air and refreshments will be served. Admission is free.

Christmas Eve Canyon Road Farolito Walk

Farolitos on the Canyon Road Christmas Eve Farolito Walkone of the many annual Christmas events in Santa Fe NM photo Steve Collins

Farolitos on Canyon Road on Christmas Eve photo/Steve Collins

Christmas Eve Canyon Road Farolito Walk is a beloved Santa Fe Tradition — albeit a recent one that started in the 1970s. The street, closed to traffic at 5pm, is jam-packed with tens of thousands of people who come out to celebrate this festive night. The big draw: thousands of farolitos, luminarias and fauxlitos (strings of electrified plastic farolitos) that symbolically light the way for the birth of the Christ Child as well as that of the revelers who walk up and down the road greeting friends, sometimes spontaneously breaking into Christmas carols. Follow the crowds down driveways; you never know what you’ll find. Some people even deck themselves with costumes, flashing lights, and tinkling bells. Some stop to warm their hands at a fire or grab a hot drink to take the chill away. If it snows, the night becomes even more magical. Dress warmly and enjoy the fun.

Midnight Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi at Christmas, photo Steve Collins

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi at Christmas, photo Steve Collins

Midnight Mass is a big event in this strongly Catholic city. The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is THE place to be for Midnight Mass. Doors open at 10pm; arrive early as the church fills up quickly. Lessons and Carols begin at 11pm. By the time Mass starts, there is nary a seat in the house. The interior of the beautiful Romanesque cathedral merges the traditions of Catholicism with the traditions of New Mexico. It is a special place to wind up your Santa Fe Christmas Eve celebration.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day in Santa Fe just about everything is closed. You can ski, hike or snowshoe, go to the movies or enjoy something that is uniquely New Mexican. On both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day some of the state’s pueblos host Christmas ceremonies and traditional dances and Check before making your plans as dances are subject to change. These are sacred ceremonies; before visiting, read the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s short guide to pueblo etiquette.

New Year’s Eve on the Plaza

Ring in 2016 on the Santa Fe Plaza, photo Billie Frank

Ring in 2016 on the Santa Fe Plaza, photo Billie Frank

The City of Santa Fe is launching a new event to celebrate the end of the old and the arrival of the new. New Year’s on the Plaza will be a festive night. The festivities on the historic downtown square kick off at 9:30pm.There will be music from local favorites Alex Maryol and Lumbre del Sol. For a late snack at the alcohol-free event visit one of the food trucks set uo or grab a cup of hot chocolate from a local non-profit to warm you up. At 11:45 Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzalez will address the crowd. At midnight there will be a top-secret surprise to ring in 2016. Event coordinator Ray Sandoval of Kiwanis Santa Fe wants to keep this a surprise. All he will reveal about it is this: while most places lower things to bring in th New Year; (think the big ball in NYC), Santa Fe will be raising something. If you want to know what, you’ll have to be there. The event will end at about 11:45. City buses will be running until 1:30am and they are free all night. Check the bus schedule here.

Because of the unique cultural mix in Santa Fe, holiday events offer celebrations not found anywhere else in the world. We love going to these events and we think you will, too. There’s still time to plan a trip for this year, but if you already have plans, there’s always next year. If you want help planning a Santa Fe holiday experience, contact The Santa Fe Traveler our travel-planning and tour business.

Feliz Navidad! Happy Chanukah or whatever holiday tradition you observe.

What annual Christmas events in Santa Fe have you been to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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