The Suitcase Lady


December 18, 2012, 9:56 pm

The best Christmas decorations in the world start with ordinary brown paper lunch bags. Take a bag, fill the bottom with sand and stick in a candle. You have created a farolito. Then repeat the process 100 or more times.

The farolito is Northern New Mexico’s traditional Christmas decoration. When darkness descends on December 24, all the candles are lighted and the homes, neighborhoods, plazas and roadsides become magical. One college campus is adorned with 4,000 of these little lanterns.

The high desert is cold in December, so bonfires are lighted  in yards and roadsides  to defy the darkness and warm up the folks who are outside viewing the farolitos. The flickering lights combined with the ever present scent of burning pinon logs create a feast for the senses that could move the heart of Scrooge. Note that outside of Northern New Mexico the paper bag lights are called luminarias and the building of bonfires in the streets is frowned upon!

Many of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere are lighting up lights as well. The yearning for the light to return is an ancient and instinctual response crossing all religious and cultural boundaries. We may laugh at the thought of the Druids lighting fires on the hills to inveigle the sun to return and make the days longer, but we are still doing the same thing, lighting the darkness at the winter solstice.

So bring on the lights and drink a toast to the soon-to-return sun. Hope lives.


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