Monday, December 5, 2011

Rich traditions are affordable by all

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Ah, it’s that wonderful time of year when I finally regain my hall closets and guest bed surfaces and time to appreciate the joys of the holidays in New Mexico.
By the time Thanksgiving comes around, if not shortly before, I’ve wrapped all my presents and packed boxes to ship off to loved ones on both coasts and what my soulmate calls the “belly button” regions of the United States.
Unless I’m hosting a party or expecting out-of-town guests, my halls are minimally decked and I’m dreaming of a no-clutter, Zen Christmas.
In fact, this was the year I shipped off to the Pacific Northwest most of the Halloween and Christmas decorations I’d collected with son Ryan and grandson Alexander the Great, my erstwhile partners in artistic holiday crimes — or at least imaginative seasonal shenanigans.
It’s time for them to establish their own traditions with Peanuts character band members and exotic Southwestern chile ornaments.
My “little” grandson is 15, a head taller than I am, and, I hope, thoroughly infused with loving, sometimes thoroughly silly and touching holiday memories.
This Christmas, I’ll be remembering those times, from his homemade toddler cinnamon ornaments to his Christmas pageants at Hillrise Elementary and the impromptu two-guy guitar concert of holiday-inspired original compositions produced with his dad.
Here — in New Mexico in general and the Mesilla Valley in particular — you don’t really need a personal display of ornaments, lavish parties or an opulent show of gifts to enjoy a very happy holiday season that’s rich in meaning and traditions and affordable by all.
What imaginative soul first used paper bags, sand and candle stubs to create a magical winter wonderland? That great idea now lights our city streets and plazas, for festivals like Winterfest and Mesilla’s legendary Christmas Eve celebration.
The world has taken notice. I once helped the San Antonio branch of the Weston family set up an impressive spring luminaria display on a Caribbean beach at Frenchman’s Cove in Jamaica.
Now, online sources offer multicolored and patterned LED-lit luminarias. I’m trying to remember the first time I saw a string of electric luminarias: plastic brown bags packed with small white light bulbs. I think it was on a store in Santa Fe, where many still take great umbrage of you don’t call them “farolitos.”
Luminarias, they insist, refer to the small bonfires lit along paths and roadways for Las Posadas, the traditional annual reenactments of the first Christmas, when Mary and Joseph sought refuge at inns in Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ child.
“Farolitos,” City Different residents will admonish you, was the name given to smaller lanterns carried by children and others reenacting La Posada (literally “house hunting”), a tradition dating to morality plays of the middle ages.
Many Las Crucens can tell you stories of their childhood La Posada adventures, ambling and caroling through neighborhoods on chilly nights.
It’s a tradition that has been revived in recent years at area churches and with a Downtown Mall procession, complete with a cooperative burro borrowed from the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum.
It’s one of many traditions that warm our hearts and hearths this time of year.
New red chile ristras symbolizing spicy hospitality in our kitchens and on our front doors. Fresh batches of biscochitos and sweet and savory tamales. The quiotes (walking sticks) and the candles of those expressing their faith at area services and pilgrimages up Tortugas Mountain.
The most vivid memories are made of the simplest things. No matter where you are in your holiday schedule, remind loved ones — and yourself — to take time to smell the piñon fires, see the lights, and experience the message of love that inspires this blessed season.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

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