Santa Fe will always be the City Different. During Christmas everyone partakes in our unique traditions. Thousands of farolitos dot the landscape. Their electronic counterparts on public buildings also magically appear in December. The tradition of the farolito did not occur during the Spanish Colonial era. It began with the invention of the square-bottomed bag. The bag received a patent in Feb. 20,1872. Therefore, the paper bag lantern came about in the mid 19th century. During the next one hundred years the Christmas tradition of the farolito (little lantern) grew significantly. Their present popular usage as lighting devices has become synonymous with Christmas in New Mexico.
Holiday Cheer for the Departed
Another 20th century tradition that incorporates the use of farolitos is the ongoing tradition to decorate gravesites on Christmas Eve. Some New Mexico families gather to spend time with their deceased loved ones at the cemetery. The preparation for the celebration begins in the late afternoon. Each grave has small paper sacks filled with sand and candles. The farolitos glow during the evening celebration welcoming the birth of the Christ child. At that time the memory of their family members that have passed is honored. The graves feature poinsettias or miniature Christmas trees. Ornaments and candy canes also adorn the graves. During the Christmas Eve celebration families sing or play recorded versions of religious songs. Popular Christmas tunes echo throughout the graveyard. The Spanish song, Las Mañanitas, the traditional Spanish birthday song, is highlighted during the evening celebration.