The Tradition of Luminarias

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One of my favorite last-minute holiday decorations are the Christmas Eve lanterns known as luminarias, a Spanish word roughly translating to “lights” in English.  If you haven’t heard of luminarias don’t worry, the tradition is usually only found in the southwest of the United States, however it has some deep roots.

By any name, luminarias or farolitos as they’re sometimes called in New Mexico, the tradition of using lanterns, small bonfires, or candles to light the path of gift-givers reaches far far back in history, all the way back to Biblical times when the story goes that luminarias lit the way of Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men to the manger in Bethlehem.  Today the tradition continues all the way across Canada, Mexico, and Europe in the form of tea lights in brown paper bags weighed down with sand which line the driveways of houses on Christmas Eve, kind of like airport runway lights for Saint Nicholas AKA Papa Noel AKA Santa Claus to touchdown on his sleigh!

Luminarias are a fun tradition to add some extra festivity to Christmas Eve, and though the “traditional” luminarias are usually not a fire hazard, you can also find safer electrical versions in home goods stores.  However if you want to get extra fancy you can cut patterns into the paper bag, such as stars, angels, snowflakes, or trees.  I like to prep the paper bags with the family the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and then set them out and light them just before leaving for the night church service.  That way when we return we are guided home by the flickering luminarias!  Any way you choose to decorate hope you all have a very festive holiday season!  Had y’all heard of luminarias before?

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