By Kelli King
I love Christmas music. I especially love songs that make me imagine what Christmas is like in other places. My top places to imagine spending Christmas have always been New York City, London, Paris, some enchanting village in Ireland or Germany, and more recently, I found out that Strasbourg, France, has a very famous Christmas market. these are all pretty exotic places, and I may well spend Christmas in some of them as a tourist in the future. But they will never be mine. My own hometown suffers from a relative lack of charm, so that may contribute to my desire to see Christmases elsewhere. The city I live in now that I’m grown has much more “curb appeal” because we have the gorgeous backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, but it is still neither a quaint French village nor a beautiful bustling city.
To me, Christmas is above all a Christian holiday, and the actual celebration of it has very little to do with the things I imagine when I think about charming Christmas markets and beautiful cathedrals and towns lit up and looking like either Home Alone 2 or Thomas Kincade. That does not mean that I don’t love the “trappings” of the holiday season though! I really do like winter – snow, hot chocolate, fireplaces, sweaters, Christmas movies, baking cookies, and giving gifts. I love dark, jewel-like winter colors, and the way the sky is a particular color of grey right before it snows. Everything is both darker and softer. The sunsets are more pastels and less vibrant oranges, but yet it gets dark sooner and stays dark longer. That means that the Christmas lights are even more beautiful. If it snows and there is a full moon, it is absolutely breathtaking.
I grew up in Farmington, New Mexico, a town that really doesn’t have a lot of fame and fortune. (This might change a little bit right now as Farmington has its very own future Country music superstar who is in the top 10 of the singing show “The Voice”! Click here to hear our own Chevel Shepherd!)
In Farmington, it doesn’t snow very much. When it does snow, it melts the next morning. Every snowman I ever built as a child was full of sticks and grass and pine needles, and once I’d finished building it, that meant the rest of the yard was stripped bare of snow. Mostly winter was just brown, and a little cold. But at Christmas, the community college embraces Farmington’s New Mexican heritage. New Mexico has a lot of Native American people (specifically Navajo, or Diné) and a lot of Hispanic heritage. One tradition that I remember from growing up was going to see the luminarias at San Juan College. It’s a 2-year junior college in Farmington, and each year they outline their entire campus with luminarias. These are small brown paper bags with sand in the bottom to weigh them down and a candle inside. In times past they were lit by hand, but now they are commonly electric lights inside plastic covers made to look like paper bags. At the college, they designate a couple of days where you can go drive or walk through the campus to look at them. It’s a huge deal; they have traffic directors and they do a one-way traffic loop through the campus, and everyone drives through really slowly with their lights off. Bonus points if you play Christmas music in your car. Click here to see the official page for the San Juan College Luminaria display. There are some fantastic pictures on the site. I wish I had some of my own to post, but unfortunately, even if I did, they would have been taken with a little 35mm camera a really long time ago…
When I was a little girl, we would go to the Christmas Eve service at the Methodist church, and usually afterward my dad would drive us around to look at Christmas lights. There was one street in particular, 17th street, where every house would line their yards with tin cans punched with different Christmas-y designs and they had lights inside. the whole street did it. I understand that at that time, way before HOA’s were a thing, you had to agree to do these decorations if you bought a house on that street. I loved looking at all the lights. Christmas lights made the town look almost pretty. I never thought it was a beautiful or charming town, but Christmas lights do amazing things to a place.
After looking at the lights, we’d go home and open presents, and my dad usually built a fire. Our tradition was to open presents on Christmas Eve, and then Christmas morning we’d get up and look at the presents that “Santa” brought. I may have been a bit of a spoiled child! I have very fond memories of my dad and his fireplace.
It wasn’t until I was older that I learned to appreciate the NM state cookie, which is the Bizcochito. It is a shortbread type cookie flavored with anise and cut into festive shapes. Here is the recipe I use, in case anyone would like to try it! My mom got this recipe from a lady in Farmington. You can tell it’s an old recipe because it calls for “oleo.” In fact, they are traditionally made with lard. I have, however, successfully used butter as well.
Whatever your Christmas traditions, I wish you all a merry one!
About me: I spend part of my time with my head in the clouds, part with my hands in dough, and part dreaming en français…and then I write about some of it.
Merci beaucoup, Solveig ! I love your advent calendar and am proud to be part of it!
Kelli King http://fortyandfantastique.wordpress.com