lamplighter, historically, was an employee of a town who lit street lights, generally by means of a wick on a long pole. At dawn, they would return to put them out using a small hook on the same pole. Early street lights were generally candles, oil, and similar consumable liquid or solid lighting sources with wicks. Another lamplighter duty was to carry a ladder and renew the candles, oil, or gas mantles. In some communities, lamplighters served in a role akin to a town watchman. Early gaslights required lamplighters, but eventually systems were developed which allowed the lights to operate automatically. Today a lamplighter is an extremely rare job.

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Lamp light Taos NM

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A luminaria or farolito is a small paper lantern (commonly a candle set in some sand inside a paper bag) which is of significance in New Mexico and some neighboring states at christmas time.

In general, farolito is the preferred term in Santa Fe and other parts of northern New Mexico, while the decorations are often referred to as luminarias elsewhere. In Spanish, the word farolito translates as “little lantern”, while luminaria means “festival light”.

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Traditional  farolitos are made from brown paper bags weighted down with sand and illuminated from within by a lit candle. These are typically arranged in rows to create large and elaborate displays.

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These lights have their roots in the 1800’s. Small bonfires, like the current day bonfires on the corners of Canyon Road in Santa Fe, were used to guide people to Christmas Mass.

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Luminarias SAN FELIPE

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Places to See Grand Displays of Farolitos and Luminarias and Southwest Holiday Lights

Santa Fe’s Canyon Road

Rio de Las Luces (River of Lights at Albuquerque’s Botanic Garden.

Noches de las Luminarias – Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona.

Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico Luminaria Festival

Tlaquepaque Luminaria Festival – Sedona, Arizona

Luminaria Festival – Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico – Christmas eve there are luminaries placed throughout the valley which visitors can drive through to see.

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Mesa Verde Luminarias

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During a visit to Santa Fe during the long Thanksgiving weekend in 1984, it seemed as if the whole town was draped in magnificent farlitos / luminarias. The nights were quite magical with all of the soft candle lights. The cold, dry air felt wonderful as I walked around the Palace of the Governors’ area.

That was the weekend I enjoyed my first Santa Fe Thanksgiving dinner that was prepared by the owners of the El Paradero Bed and Breakfast where I stayed that weekend. The textures, herbs and other local ingredients were quite different than what a transplanted East Coaster living-then-in-California expected – pine nuts, green chilies and other delectable, unexpected treats blended into the stuffing.

Another walk around Sante Fe was definitely welcomed after that amazing feast. Everything again seemed so much clearer in the thin, dry evening air.  It was easy to remember the license plate slogan which reminded how enchanting New Mexico is.

Two nights later a group of us found a terrific reggae club where we danced and  listened to some great live music.

It’s time to think about taking another trip there…..

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1 Comment

Filed under American Southwest

One response to “Illuminate.

  1. Hahaha who would have thought. position description: lamp lighter

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