Above: Canyon Road shines bright on Christmas Eve. Photograph courtesy of Visit Santa Fe.

1 Yet in the dark streets shineth.

Thousands of farolitos (as the paper bag-sand-and-candle contraptions are known in northern New Mexico) glimmer along Santa Fe’s Canyon Road on Christmas Eve. Walking the famed art hub is a hallowed tradition—and a block party like no other. Warm your hands at little bonfires (called “luminarias” up here), greet old and new friends, and listen to carolers sing classics. Thousands are likely to attend after last year’s car-only event, so consider wearing a mask. Other tips:

  1. Arrive early for the choicest parking spots.
  2. Avoid the parking altogether by using a rideshare app.
  3. Catch one of the Masses at St. Francis Cathedral before or after (4 p.m. and midnight).
  4. Sip a Christmas cocktail at nearby La Posada de Santa Fe while enjoying the hotel’s holiday decor and roaring fireplaces.
  5. Get home in time to leave cookies for Santa!  

The plaza in Mesilla glows for the holidays from 5 to 7 p.m. Christmas Eve. Photograph courtesy of Mesilla.

2 And to the earth it gave great light.

In Las Cruces, the Mesilla Plaza glows with luminarias (or farolitos) on Christmas Eve, 5–7 p.m. Stroll the historic streets while enjoying carols sung by Sarah and the Bah Hum Bugs. “It’s like going back in time,” says Dan Trujillo, interim marketing director for Visit Las Cruces. “It’s a combination of the Mesilla Valley culture, its rich history, tradition, romance, and the youthful wonder and awe of Christmastime all rolled into one magical evening.”

3 Sing, choirs of angels.

Thrills and trills fill the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe with the joy of music on Christmas Eve during a 5 p.m. concert by the Santa Fe Opera and Santa Fe Symphony. Singers from the opera’s nationally lauded apprentice program will sing arias, duets, trios, and quartets by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Strauss, led by symphony conductor Guillermo Figueroa. Wear a mask and present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.

The Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade paints the Angel Fire Resort slopes with color. Photograph courtesy of SJ Communications.

4 You would even say it glows.

Head to Angel Fire Resort to see a show of lights Christmas Eve. The annual Torchlight Parade starts around 6 p.m., when skiers take to the slopes and descend with torches and synchronized movements, creating an extravaganza for folks watching below. It’s fun to bundle up and gather with loved ones on a crisp winter night,” says Greg Ralph, director of marketing at Angel Fire Resort. “The spectacle of watching people performing in a rhythmic descent is a lot of fun.” (Stick around and you can “Shred with Santa” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Christmas day.)

5 Happy golden days of yore.

Let your heart be light as the 1880s-era architecture of the Lincoln Historic Site twinkles during Christmas Eve’s Luminarias in Lincoln. The glow starts at 4 p.m., with a special appearance at 5 p.m. by Santa and Goober, a longhorn steer who, in this Old West town, is the big guy’s right-hand man. Sip hot chocolate while you wander the site’s 17 historic buildings.