Christmas Eve in Santa Fe is inevitably cold, but not cold enough to keep people indoors. Among the many traditional events held during the holiday season, the Canyon Road farolito (candles inside brown paper bags) walk is among the most beloved. Many of the galleries and businesses on Canyon Road keep their doors open late on Christmas Eve and offer guests good tidings, or if you prefer to avoid the big crowds, many of the side neighborhoods feature luminarias and ***image1***caroling by bonfires. You don't need to know about the road or the walk to enjoy it-but if you like a little background with your bizcochito, here are a few fun facts and comments on the annual event, followed by a selection of other holiday-centric activities to mark on your calendar:
• Before the conquistadores stepped onto this land, the Indians used Canyon Road as the main route to the Pecos Pueblos. Some Canyon Road adobes date back to the 1750s. At that time, the road was a rural neighborhood scattered with small farms. It remained as such throughout the Spanish invasion until the US Army arrived in 1846.
• Gerald Cassidy was one of the first artists to reside in the Canyon Road area. He bought a house in 1915 with the intention of becoming a full-time painter. Soon the neighborhood was inundated with artists, and after World War II, Santa Fe's gallery population began to increase. By the early '60s, the majority of the city's 12 galleries resided on Canyon Road. Today, the street is one of the most famous art districts in the world.
• An average of 25,000 people walk this road on Christmas Eve. They bring with them friends, dogs, children, joy and spirit. They sing carols and gather around luminarias, socializing with Santa Feans and tourists alike.
• In 1982, the Santa Fe City Council had approved a construction plan to build 14 two-story condominiums on Canyon Road. Residents protested the construction and there were no farolitos that Christmas Eve. By the following year, things were back to normal.
• In 1984, the Morning Star Gallery (513 Canyon Road) impressed the public by erecting nearly 1,000 farolitos. It became an annual practice for this business, taking about five hours of patience and setup. Creativity was thus spurred.
• In 1988, alternative energy guru Arvo Thomson began launching his flying farolitos-a now popular feature of the annual event.
• In 2000, some area residents met to discuss complaints about the rowdy behavior of some farolito walkers. For example: diapers tossed onto private property and young people drinking and stomping on the farolitos. Residents compared the tradition to Mardi Gras, claiming that it had lost the peaceful, friendly and cozy atmosphere. In addition to this hectic feeling, locals grumbled about the increase in tourists.
• These days, the city spends thousands of dollars to control the area by blocking off streets from vehicular traffic and stationing officers to patrol the crowds.
• Last December, the Canyon Road farolito walk made USA Today's "10 great places to visit by flickering lights" list.
Friday, Nov. 24
Although we lack firm confirmation for this year, the annual tree lighting of the Christmas tree on the Plaza usually takes place the day after Thanksgiving, so it's a safe bet it will this year. Ooh! Aah!
Monday, Dec. 4
Lighting ceremony at 6:45 pm; concert at 7 pm
Benildus Hall, College of Santa Fe; free
The College of Santa Fe offers an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony followed by a holiday concert by the musical ensembles.
Sunday, Dec. 10
Palace of the Governors
The traditional re-enactment of the Christmas Eve story begins at the Palace of the Governors and winds around the Plaza as Mary and Joseph search for a room on Christmas Eve.
Saturday, Dec. 16
Throughout most of December, the Railway presents special holiday trains. The Polar Express Train will run until Christmas. Bring your kids (and wear your pajamas) to share some hot chocolate and cookies.
Farolitos on the Plaza
Saturday, Dec. 23
Sing carols, sip cider and check out the 1,000 farolitos that light the Plaza on Christmas Eve.