REPOST: 6. The Heart of the Season: Celebrating the Season with Light…New Mexico Luminarias

(First annual repost , most likely! …with an additional photo )

Happy Holidays to All!

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

Although I really don’t celebrate Christmas in a “traditional” way, I do love the lights of the season!  I put up some lights on my little tree out front and enjoy all the displays in the neighborhood.  One in particular is very spectacular this year, in the sidestreet across from me. One house has a great display of  luminaries around its  entire roofline, similiar to what you can see in the first picture below.

From the New Mexico Tourist Board:

Farolitos and Luminarias — a New Mexico Tradition

The beautiful glow illuminating New Mexico’s walkways during the holiday season comes from “farolitos” also called “luminarias” (depending on where you are—north or south). This New Mexico tradition began over 300 years ago when the Spanish villages along the Rio Grande displayed the unique and easy to make Christmas lanterns to light up the dark winter nights. A traditional farolito is made up of a brown paper bag, folded at the top, and partially filled with sand. A lit votive candle placed on top of the sand in the bag creates a warm holiday glow.

Many towns and pueblos hold celebrations and light the luminarias/farolitos on Christmas Eve.  The tradition is also followed throughout the Southwest, as well as parts of California.

Luminarias/Farolitos with Other Lights of the Season

Luminarias/Farolitos with Other Lights of the Season

Old Town Albuquerque Farolitos

"Old Town" Albuquerque Farolitos

(NMSU Noches de Luminarias, here in Las Cruces. Pic no longer available)

Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Pueblo (Sky City)

So, enjoy the lights tonight, whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, the Solstice of  last weekend, Kwanzaa or simply enjoying your unadorned Festivus pole!!!

***

UPDATE: Last night’s Christmas Eve (2008) celebration in historic Mesilla….

December 24, 2008

Mesilla Plaza: December 24, 2008

Another view of a Christmas Eve in Mesilla:

These Gray Days of December

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

It’s nearly winter in southern New Mexico.  For the most part we’ve had sunny days, but lately we’ve had our share of gray.  Earlier in the week we actually had rain and there was snow up in the St. Augustin pass and the peaks.  A couple of weeks ago I took my short trip up to The Other Side of the Mountain…these days, that excursion wouldn’t be so inviting.

First Snow on Organ Peaks 12/08

First Snow on Organ Peaks 12/08

It’s always shock when the gray sets in this time of year because it feels so PROFOUNDLY gray.  Growing up in New Jersey, going to college in Ithaca, New York, and spending a year in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I accepted the rain, the snow, and the raw weather.  The occasional blizzard, too. By March, however, it was downright depressing. Sure, spring was around the corner and a 40° F day seemed warm. But it was the continuous gray that got to me.  It just hung like a shroud…

A series of gray days or days that start out sunny and turn gray with a low cloud cover is hard to take here in southern New Mexico. Maybe I’m just older. Maybe I’ve just gotten spoiled. But when what I call “Jersey weather” descends, so do my spirits.  A single day of completely gray weather affects my mood to the point where I am praying for the Sun’s return so that I don’t have to feel like I need to curl up into a ball and hide. I often wonder how I managed to tolerate the winters back East and the one in Milwaukee, which was just plain brutal!

The webcam has been showing the back and forth between bright blue skies, wispy clouds, and heavy clouds that look like it will rain any minute. By Christmas, the really “bad” days of winter set in. Sometimes we will have a rip-roaring wind and rain storm or perhaps an inch or so of snow that melts almost immediately.  It will feel like winter back East for about a week, then we get usually pleasant days with very cold nights through January and into February.  As long as the days are dry and sunny, I don’t care much about the nights, except for what the coldest spells might do to my garden under the “greenhouse.”  In that case, I throw a few blankets over the vegetables for a bit more protection.

The dogs know the weather has changed. Tico hates this time of year.  We adopted him on February 1, 2002, the same day that he was dumped in the cage outside the animal shelter after being kept for a month by people who had found him by the side of a road.  We had our name on a list for a small dog to be a companion for Toro, and when the shelter called I rushed right over. Tico was sitting in a box of shredded paper, alternating between shaking like a leaf or growling with bared teeth.  The attendant begged us to take him, as he wasn’t making a very good impression and most likely would wind up being put to sleep within a few days.   Once I held him, that was it.  Since it was a Friday, he couldn’t be picked up until the next Monday after his neutering surgery, so we brought Toro over to play with him and the two seemed to get along.  We took Tico home and since then we’ve seen that winters are hard on him. He curls up as if he’s hibernating and refuses to go out when he senses a change of the weather. He’s as sensitive as a precision barometer.  He is so upset that it’s even hard to keep him on a schedule to go out to the bathroom. He must have some very bad memories from being out on a cold road during the winter as a pup. Toro, on the other hand, is a New Jersey native who grew up playing in the snow and has no problems during the winter.

Slick, of course, was rescued from the streets at the end of 2002  just as the weather turned cold.  Now that he’s older, he doesn’t protest too much when I put on his little “jackie” for his early morning walk or his nighttime pj’s made of a cut-up sweat pants leg.   As a min pin, he really feels the cold to the point of shivering and it’s not unusual for me to wake up in the morning to find him out of his bed and under the covers with me.

This year there’s a real difference in how I’m feeling as winter approaches.  It’s just a few days shy of the two-month anniversary of the death of my ex-pat friend who lived in England.  Sharon and I never met in-person, although we talked on the phone and then via Skype.  We  first “met” while I was doing columns over at Buzzflash (ca. 2001). We started corresponding and kept at it until this October.

I  knew she had been having health problems, but she was very private. She told me she had pneumonia (which turned out not to be true) and that she was getting better. But her emails, which had been an almost a daily ritual, became less and less frequent.

Suddenly, she wrote and told me that she loved me.  A few days later, I received an email that she had died.

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