Tradition: Luminaras

Note: the informant was originally from New Mexico


Christmas Luminaras

This tradition is primarily a New Mexico. Before Christmas my informant’s family sets up luminaras around their house. Luminaras are made of paper bags,sand, and candles. Generally brown paper bags and wax candles are used although some people use electric lights in lieu of candles. They do not have to be decorated. To make them you just fill a bag with sand and place the candle inside. According to the informant this is a very collaborative process, the whole family (her nuclear family) gets involved, they take turns doing different steps and they all put the luminaras outside. They place several hundred outside the house. On Christmas Eve the informant and her family go out and look at the neighbor’s Christmas lights and luminaras. Then they drive to Old Town in Alberquere, a plaza where a lot of people gather to look at the luminaras. 

In this case the time the family spending time together is the most important part of this tradition than the object itself. The emphasis is about preparation because that’s a collaborative process. Its fairly similar to other Christmas traditions (well h=the ones I’ve experienced) where the traditions like putting up a tree and opening presents are more about spending time with the family.