This post is a guest post written by Maria Perez of Sew Travel Inspired! Be sure to check out her site!
Santa Fe is a fascinating place to visit with kids and Christmastime is an especially good time. The best way to describe Santa Fe at Christmas is “magical.” With the unique blend of traditions from Spanish, Native American, and Old West heritage, the city has a holiday look and feel unlike anywhere in the U.S.
Picture this—the nearby mountains are covered in snow, the sky is vivid blue, and the spicy smell of local piñon wood in fireplaces scents the air. The charming adobe surroundings are illuminated with the traditional appearance of luminarias (bonfires) and farolitos (small candles set in sand inside paper bags.) This is the perfect setting for a holiday vacation and the city offers dozens of holiday events to make it even more special.
For centuries Santa Fe has remained strongly Catholic. Religious events such as Las Posadas and Noche Buena (Midnight Mass) at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis de Assisi are not to be missed. But the city with its unique mix of Anglo, Hispanic and Native American cultures offers something for everyone.
The official start of the Season of Joy is the annual Christmas tree lighting in the historic Santa Fe Plaza. But a pre-Christmas event is worth mentioning.
Holiday Pie Mania
Sample pie, ice cream, and coffee while you watch top local chefs demonstrate how to make their signature holiday pies and other desserts. Each participating chef makes his or her signature pie for the crowd to sample. In the past, pies have ranged from pecan and pumpkin and New Mexico green chile to chocolate. You never know what these creative bakers will come up with. And that’s half the fun! The highlight of the afternoon is the pie auction.
This pre-Thanksgiving event is held on a November Saturday afternoon at Builders Source Appliance Gallery. It is a benefit for The Food Depot, Santa Fe’s local food bank.
Annual Lighting of the Christmas Tree & Santa Fe Plaza
No place is more special at this time of year than the historic Plaza, home of the city’s official Christmas trees. Colored lights transform the square into a wonderland. The park’s evergreens are festooned with colored lights and there are a lot of them. The official Christmas tree lighting takes place on the night after Thanksgiving and it’s done with a lot of fanfare. Entertainment starts at 3 PM and Santa arrives via a vintage fire truck at 4 PM. When darkness falls the switch is thrown, and the square is transformed into a winter wonderland. The lights stay up until New Year’s Day
Community Menorah Lighting
Santa Fe means “Holy Faith” in Spanish. And Santa Fe welcomes everyone of all faiths to celebrate the holiday season. Part of the annual holiday celebration is a menorah lighting ceremony on the first night of Chanukah. (Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a group of Jewish warriors defeated the occupying mighty Greek armies.) The ninety-minute event begins at 3:00 PM and includes speakers, refreshments, and entertainment. Candles burn in the contemporary menorah for the holiday’s eight nights. The Genoveva Chavez Center and co-sponsor Chabad Jewish Community Center present the annual lighting of the menorah on the Downtown Plaza.
Winter Indian Market
The Santa Fe Indian Market celebrates Native art, clothing, music, food and storytelling. This holiday-season art show features over 200 Native artists from the US and Canada, six award-winning artist demonstrators and a fashion row featuring the work of Native fashion designers. There is also an auction, raffles, and film screenings as well as a Festival of Trees. The show is a great place to do your holiday shopping. The incomparable holiday gift shopping opportunities include jewelry, pottery, art objects, imaginative holiday decorations and more.
The show is an annual tradition held during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Santa Fe Cooking School – Traditional New Mexico Christmas Demonstration Class
Christmas in Santa Fe is a magical time filled with centuries-old culinary traditions. Come learn how Santa Feans do the holidays! Demonstration classes are taught by some of the best chefs in Santa Fe and include the preparation of shredded pork tamales and poblano & corn tamales both served with red chile sauce, hearty holiday posole with green chile sauce, calabacitas and the famous official state cookie, biscochitos. Classes are entertaining, educational, and delicious.
Glow – A Winter Lights Event in the Garden
Christmas is about lights. A Winter Holiday Lights Event takes place at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden up on the city’s Museum Hill. The Santa Fe Botanic Garden’s unique light show will amaze and amuse the entire family. The Garden becomes a winter wonderland lit with extraordinary displays of winter lights. There are thousands of lights, including LED, floodlights, kinetic lights that move rhythmically and fairy lights in plants and trees. There are also heated, illuminated geodesic domes, scrumptious nibbles, festive beverages, visits and photos with Santa, and live music on select nights. Arrive right at 5 PM and watch the spectacular high desert sunset that’s been drawing artists and others to Santa Fe for over 100 years. The transition from day to night will enhance your experience. There’s nothing like GLOW to create a special holiday tradition for your family and friends.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Embrace the holiday spirit and enjoy the magic of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s The Nutcracker. One December weekend each year Aspen Santa Fe performs this beloved Christmas classic. Children of all ages will marvel at this whimsical interpretation of a seasonal classic. The production takes an unexpected turn with the addition of circus performers including an aerialist. Ballet, flamenco, a Chinese sword dance and even an aerialist, allow the cast of 60 dancers, actors and circus artists to create lifelong memories for you and your loved ones.
Santa Fe Pro Musica at Loretto Chapel
Baroque music and Old English carols by Santa Fe Pro Musica fill the sanctuary and swell the heart at Loretto Chapel. The wonderful acoustics and intimate setting make this the recommended music event of the Season. But get your tickets early!
This annual candle-lit procession is an important Christmas event in Santa Fe. The traditional reenactment tells the story of Mary and Joseph searching for a room in Bethlehem—and throws in a few devils for good measure.. It is staged outdoors, and begins at the historic Palace of Governors’ with a candlelight procession. The walk ends in the Palace’s courtyard where complimentary hot cider and biscochitos (the New Mexico State Cookie) are served to the chilled crowd.
Canyon Road Farolito Walk
Christmas Eve in Santa Fe is unlike any other in the world. The
signature seasonal event is the Canyon Road Farolito Walk and it seems
the entire city turns out for it. The adobe gallery-lined road is decorated with thousands of farolitos (handmade candle lanterns) and luninarias (small bonfires called Posada vigil fires.) Families can see exceptional works of art inside centuries-old adobes, enjoy hot chocolate, cider and traditional biscochitos in the art galleries, and keep warm singing carol on the corners by the luminarias along the road. The festivities start at dusk (at about 5 PM) and run until around 10 PM. The atmosphere is festive and full of good holiday cheer.
Noche Buena at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis de Assisi
Midnight Mass (Miso de Gallo) at the Cathedral is another major event. The historic cathedral is decorated and lit to reflect its Native American and Spanish heritage. Kids will like this colorful, musical Mass (sometimes called the Rooster’s Mass or Miso de Gallo.) It commemorates an old Spanish folk story about the animals in the manger where Christ was born and the aged rooster who greeted the Christ Child with his joyful crow. The doors open at 10:30 PM and the church fills up quickly. If you want a seat, arrive early. By the time Mass starts, there is not a seat in the house.
Native American Dances
Winter Pueblo feast days and dances held at Indian pueblos surrounding Santa Fe are open to visitors. Several Native American pueblos are located near Santa Fe, and visitors can see a number of traditional ceremonial dances during the holiday season. December events at several pueblos include torchlight processions of the Virgin on Christmas Eve, and dances on Christmas Day. Taos Pueblo, for instance, is about an hour away, and visitors might see the Deer or Los Matachina dance there on Christmas Day. Visitors should know that, while dances usually happen on a particular date, the time is not set. Families should be prepared to wait, and should behave respectfully. For a full schedule of dances and important etiquette for these religious events, please visit
For as compete list of the Santa Fe events, dates and costs check the Santa Fe Official Travel Site.
Come to Santa Fe for the holidays. It’s nothing short of magical!