I remember driving through Christmas-lit neighborhoods when my daughter Laura was little. She’d excitedly exclaim, “Yayas” and “activities.” That’s what she called luminarias and nativities, my favorite holiday symbols.
When I think of a traditional New Mexico Christmas, I think of luminarias and nativity scenes. I prefer these simplistic displays that capture the essence of Christmas over modern, animated movie characters sprawled out against winter wonderland backdrops.
Don’t get me wrong; I love to deck the halls. I have six storage boxes full of Christmas decorations. But my favorite box is the one that holds my collection of nativities. Every Christmas, Laura buys me a new nativity set and I have one small ceramic nativity I leave out year round, to keep the Christmas spirit alive 365 days a year.
As for luminarias, or farolitos, these hand-held lanterns are fitting symbols of the season. Now, I’m not talking about the artificial plastic plug-ins, but the traditional luminarias — small paper bags filled with sand and a lighted candle which illuminates, creating a soft and soothing glow. To me, the sand represents the earth. For believers this symbolizes The Incarnation, when Christ took on flesh and walked the earth, and the candle inside represents Christ as the light of the world.
Keep it simple and keep Christ in Christmas.