The quivering glow from candles lit within paper bags lining city streets lends a special ambience to New Mexico’s holiday season. Whether you call them farolitos, as people do in the northern part of the state, or luminarias, as they are commonly called in the south, there is no mistaking their universal appeal at Christmastime.
The farolito tradition began more than 300 years ago, when Spanish settlers along the Rio Grande created these simple lanterns as a symbolic homage to welcome baby Jesus on Christmas. Luminarias are part of modern-day Las Posadas celebrations, which take place from December 16 to 24.
“It’s a very magical feeling, very peaceful. Having this luminaria tradition passed down from generation to generation—I don’t think New Mexico would be the same without this,” says Brenna Moore, communications manager of Visit Albuquerque.
We created our own New Mexico farolito journey for you. Follow the illuminated pathways and find your own peace during this holiday season, just as the Spanish settlers did all those years ago. Here’s a roundup of a few beloved holiday farolito and luminaria trails in New Mexico, along with other holiday events and traditions worth exploring this Christmas season.