A traditional New Mexico Christmas differs from the rest of the world with three amazing traditions: tamales, bisochitos and lumanarias. The first two add delicious flavor to any meal, and the last one lights up our towns!
“Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with a corn based dough mixture that is filled with various meats or beans and cheese. Tamales are wrapped and cooked in corn husks or banana leaves, but they are removed from the husks before eating. Try them served with pico de gallo on top and a side of guacamole and rice.”
I’m lucky because I have a dear friend in Branson, Colorado who usually gives us tamales when she makes them. When I grew up, I had a delicacy: sweet tamales that had fruit inside instead of meat. Growing up, I had these more often than the meat-filled tamale.
My husband’s Costa Rican ex-wife gives us each Christmas Costa Rican tamales, wrapped in banana leaves and some secret additions that are yummy!
When I went to Mexican as a young married in the 1970s, we ate dinner at a buffet featuring Mexican food. I saw “tamale” on one dish and grabbed one not reading closely, remembering the sweet tamales I had as a child. I choked as I swallowed the first bit of the tamale, thinking it would be sweet, but it had meat inside! So be prepared! There are two types: meat-filled or fruit-filled.
If you’re interested in fixing your own, here’s a YouTube video on how to do it:
Bisochitos became the official state cookie of New Mexico in 1989, and if you’ve had one, you will know why! They melt in your mouth!
“There are several variations of this recipe, but the flavors are the same… cinnamon sugar and anise. Some people use shortening instead of lard. Some people use anise oil instead of the real thing. Some people use brandy or rum instead of white wine.”
Albuquerque’s own Pastian’s Bakery tops my list for bisochitos: absolutely scrumptious! We square dance with Sheri Pastian, and normally we have the pleasure of eating Pastian’s bisochitos at any holiday dances.
Visit Pastian’s Bakery for the best and tell them Larada sent you: https://www.pastiansbakery.com/biscochitos
Albuquerque and any town in New Mexico lights up at Christmas like the rest of the world, but traditionally we enjoy a different type of lights, lumanarias.
“The glowing brown sacks that adorn Albuquerque walkways, churches and homes each holiday season are called luminarias and date back more than 300 years. The New Mexican tradition began when the Spanish villages along the Rio Grande displayed the unique and easy to make Christmas lanterns, called luminarias to welcome the Christ child into the world. A traditional luminaria is a brown paper bag, which has been folded at the top, filled will a couple cups of sand and a votive candle.”
Starting December 1st, we see big displays in many stores of stacks of paper sacks and votive candles to make our own lumanarias. Then all is needed is sand to put in the bottom of the sack to stabilize the bag.
If you don’t want to do it yourself, Boy Scout troops offer great deals and deliver luminarias by the dozen to your home.
Traditionally we put lumanarias out on Christmas Eve. In fact, there’s a great lumanaria tour to do around the Ole Town area and surrounding neighborhoods. I love the golden glow created by the lumanarias all lined up a row.
In 2008, my Mom and I drove down to Old Town on Christmas Eve and saw lumanarias decorating the plaza and the church, San Felipe de Neri Catholic church. The church also provided a live nativity scene. Here’s a chance to visit this inspiring church: https://sanfelipedeneri.org/
Tamales spice up a meal. Bisochitos end any holiday meal with the delicious anise and cinnamon flavor! Lumanarias light our path! Yes, a New Mexico Christmas enjoys these three local traditions.
I’m sure I’ve missed a favorite New Mexico Christmas tradition of yours? Let me know if I did. What are your local unusual holiday traditions? Share them with me!
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~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo and Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A
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