Light it up. The tiny mining town of Madrid has an outsize reputation for lighting the night. In the early 1900s, the town enjoyed free electricity supplied by the coal mining companies, which allowed for an illuminated Christmas display that some claim inspired Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A. “We wrap lights around everything in sight—trees, cars, houses, and bigger-than-life plywood cutouts of angels and candy canes,” says Ruth Aber, owner of the gift shop Mostly Madrid. “You can never have too many.”
Cast a glow. The merchants and residents of Santa Fe’s Canyon Road throw open their doors on Christmas Eve for hot chocolate and cider, music, and song during the annual Farolito Walk. Nancy Ouimet, owner and director at Canyon Road Contemporary Art, loves the traditional wood bonfires and smaller farolitos—paper bags filled with sand and a candle—that brighten sidewalks, walls, and rooflines, welcoming strollers celebrating the season. “Farolitos are simple—just get bags, sand, and candles,” she says. “They definitely bring New Mexico to anywhere.”
Make a wish. The self-declared Christmas Capital of New Mexico, Cloudcroft’s small-town setting has a Hallmark Channel–movie vibe year-round. In December, vintage holiday displays and activities include caroling, lights, and barrel fires. Residents and visitors can decorate “well wishes,” two-inch wood rounds sawed from the area’s abundant pine and evergreen branches, with messages of peace and prosperity. “Write your own well-wishes on wooden disks, string red and green ribbons, and hang them everywhere you want to bring a bit of New Mexico’s forests to your house,” says Karen Sonnenfelt, president of the Cloudcroft Chamber of Commerce.
Set the scene. The reason for the season turns the Taylor-Mesilla Historic Property in the Mesilla Plaza into a focal point during Yuletide, says Alexandra McKinney, an instructional coordinator supervisor. “The Taylor family would set up hundreds of nativity scenes—nacimientos—in every room, courtyard, and walkway, as part of the annual reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodgings in Bethlehem.” Although currently closed for renovations, the site houses a collection that dates back to the 19th century. Set up your own creche under the tree, on a table, or in your front yard—donkeys optional.