Friday, January 9, 2015

The Magical Holidays in Santa Fe

Several years ago in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle we read an article about Christmas in Santa Fe. I have always loved luminarias, since introduced to them when I lived in El Paso, Texas. In the back of my mind I kept the thought to visit this city at that time of the year. A roadtrip in December can be fraught with weather issues. We decided to proceed anyway. The weather was not an issue except on the Eastern side of Echo Summit in the Sierras.

If anyone wants to experience this magical time of the year in Santa Fe without taking a roadtrip, I would recommend Susan Topp Weber's book Christmas in Santa Fe: lovely pictures depict all the area's happenings and history as well, from Thanksgiving well into January. Since we were there only for the Winter Solstice, Dwight's birthday and Christmas, we missed many events and celebrations. We did enjoy, actually over the top enjoyed, the time we were there. Susan has a charming little shop just steps from the downtown plaza, next door to The Shed, where we enjoyed a taste of the local cuisine.

Casita Alegria was home for 8 nights and located in the San Mateo section of
Santa Fe, New Mexico. The back yard was fenced to Shasta's delight.
And just outside the huge East facing window in the living room
were filled bird feeders. There were many LBBs we could not identify
but we did identify Mountain Chickadees and Black Throated Sparrows,
both additions to our bird list. The location was great and walking
in the neighborhood excellent since there were many unpaved streets
 and an abundance of wildlife.
Coyote in the fresh snow that fell during the night after Christmas.
His partner has already disappeared into the yard he is facing.


The first full day in Santa Fe we just settled and checked out the immediate area. We found a wonderful co-op to buy most all we needed to stock our kitchen for a week or so. The employees went out of their way to be helpful in every respect. There was even a small gathering of employees who serenaded while you shopped. Across the street was a great bike/walking trail along a creek. 

Besides this excellent co-op, there are two Whole Foods in Santa Fe with her population of almost 68,000.

Panoramic view of Santa Fe from the trail mentioned below.
On the DorothyStewart Trail near St. John's College and not far from Museum Hill.
The weather was brisk and very windy at times. I was happy to have my parka!
Some illustrous Santa Fe residents have gotten permission from many
individuals to use their easements for public hiking trail. We took a
number of hikes in different parts of the outlying areas of Santa Fe.

Sculpture on the plaza between the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
and the Museum of International Folk Art.

The Museum Hill Cafe came highly recommended from a number of different individuals so we decided to partake of their Sunday brunch. We were not disappointed and they lived up to their ad.


Fresh and bursting with flavor is what Museum Hill Cafe has to offer. Serving the Santa Fe area, we provide great tasting food that's prepared fresh with the highest quality of ingredients. Treat yourself today with a meal from our delicious menu. At Museum Hill Cafe you are sure to enjoy the great atmosphere, friendly service, and affordable prices.

Take your taste buds on an unforgettable journey at Museum Hill Cafe.

In the museum's Roland Sculpture Garden was the exhibit Courage and Compassion: Native Women Sculpting Women. Since it was in the garden, we were able to take pictures.

Sculpture by Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo)
Inside of the museum no pictures were allowed.
The sculpture on loan to the museum of Roxanne's
piece depicting the creation story of her pueblo
gave me shivery chills it was so powerful.
Her pieces are massive so standing in front of
it was just so awesome!
Sculpture by Estella Loretto (Jemez Pueblo)
She also has a piece in front of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.
It is a bronze statue of St. Keri, the recently canonized first Native American saint.
The link above provides some pictures of it: a most beatific statue.
Inside we also took in the exhibit, Turquoise, Water, Sky: the Stone and its Meaning.
This extraordinary exhibit showcased 'the museum's extensive collection of Southwestern turquoise jewelry" and examined "all aspects of the stone including geology, mining, authenticity and value." It seemed only fitting this exhibit was in Santa Fe since the earliest turquoise mining took place in the tenth century A.D. about 25 miles south of Santa Fe.

This link to the Arizona Turquoise Mines reveals much about the turquoise used by the Native Peoples in their jewelry.


I highly recommend checking out this link to experience the
Tower Gallery,
The Black Mesa  is a spiritual place for the local Native Peoples
 and is most impressive to view from many directions.
The Sangre de Cristo ("blood of Christ") Mountains, with snow atop, in the distance 

Cathie and Elijah Naranjo-Smith, who was our Santa Clara Pueblo guide,
climbing down from the mesa through what use to be an ancient water conduit.
He mentioned, with much humility and humbleness, he was a potter.
Well, when we returned home and could check out his work (see below)
we were blown away with his talent. He is Roxanne Swentzell's first cousin
so like she, comes from a long line of artists.
Redware pottery bowl
Polished brown jar with sgrffito
butterfly and arrow design
In addition to our excersion to the Santa Clara Pueblo's land, for Dwight's birthday in the evening, we went to hear N. Scott Momaday speak. At the Hotel Santa Fe, the only hotel in the city owned by the native peoples, each Monday evening there is a gathering of Santa Feans to hear a speaker. We were so fortunate to "be in the right place, at the right time" to hear this wonderful man tell stories. I have read all of his books and enjoyed them all. When we came out of the hotel, a light snow was falling. The glow of electric lumarias, the outline of the impressive adobe building and the falling snow . . . magical!


Portrait of the artist

New Mexico landscape

Gerald's Tree


This National Historic Landmark represents Spain's deep roots in American soil. Its thick adobe walls are topped by massive timbers, a hallmark of what came to be "Santa Fe style." "The Palace is an iconic part of downtown Santa Fe."  It is here along the promenade during the day that artists and craftspeople bring their creations to sell. The space is limited so their is a daily lottery for space. To stroll along looking at one display after another of the what these individuals make was a delight. 

Each artist was proud to show you his or hers initials on each piece. A card was included with each purchase as well.

The necklace's artist is Ronnie Auilar (Santa Domingo Pueblo)
The studs are by Carol Calabaza (Santa Domingo Pueblo)
The earrings were purchased in Kayenta at the local Arts and Crafts Store.

Lloyd Garcia (Santa Domingo Pueblo)
created these "apple coral" earrings.

Teri Cajero, a fifth generation potter of the Jemez Pueblo.
I love her work in unusual designs, many with hearts
which is a draw for me.

Christmas Eve we had a celebratory dinner at the highly recommended downtown eatery (#12 of 473 restaurants). Each dish (tapas) was melt in your mouth delish! If you ever are in Santa Fe and want the ultimate culinary experience, don't miss El Meson.


This is the place to be on Christmas Eve in Santa Fe. The road is lined with over 300 galleries and on this evening the area is lined with "faralitos" (in the rest of the Southwest they are called luminarias) and other magical Christmas lights. There are bonfires to gather around to warm oneself. Thousands of people turn out to walk up and down the road, signing carols or just ooh and ah-ing over the magic of the lights.


On Christmas day we drove to the Santa Clara Pueblo to observe their dance which is performed after mass. The Matachines Dance, which was done at many of the other Pueblos as well, takes many hours of practice in their kiva to perfect the footwork, so we were told by Elijah who is a dancer at this pueblo.

No pictures are allow, in fact if a camera or mobile phone is sighted during the dancing, the device will be confiscated and not returned.

The dancing was spectacular to watch. We felt honored to be able to see the Matachines Dance in person.

It snowed the night of Christmas. When we took our walk, you can see our footprints in the
photo above, it was so quiet and lovely. It snowed off and all day but we ventured out
in Stella who negotiated the hilly streets with ease. We had some trepidation
about our roadtrip and Winter driving since our 4 wheel drive Subaru
was no longer with us. Stella did great in the snow! No problems!

The end to the posts of our roadtrip pictures, so feel free to


  1. An email received: "Absolutely wonderful! The pics are great. Really made me ready for another trip. After a new hip and some weight off im going back! Am going to save all your pics and stories. Thanks much. Have a great weekend. Much love......Andrea Engelmann"

  2. joy and blessings to you for sharing your experience this way!! your pictures are so well taken and chosen and words so heartfelt that the experience comes through to those of us priveledged to share in this...I almost feel as if I was there myself..

    many , many thanx for the good feelings you have broght to the rest of us..

  3. Lisa, so appreciative of your kind words. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Cathie

  4. An email I received:" HI Cathie-
    You brought back many memories of Santa Fe-hard for me to decide though if Christmas is my favorite time. We seemed to enjoy the Autumn best of all with its smells of creosote and chilies roasting, and variety of reds, golds, and everything in between colors which seemed just a bit more vivid to my consciousness than the winter months.

    Did you get a chance to go to Georgia O’Keefe country (that is my favorite part of NM), Taos, or Chaco Canyon? I just finished a very good book on the history of Ghost Ranch from its ancient beginnings with the dinosaurs until present day.

    Love, Shannon"

  5. Shannnon, we'd love to venture into Georgia O'Keefe county, Taos and Chaco Canyon . . . we only had a month and squeezed in all we could. Perhaps we'll make another road trip to add more SW sights and people. Lots of love to you, Cathie

  6. Another email: "I enjoyed seeing more photos! Looks like you stayed at really lovey places. Shasta has developed into a beautiful girl; glad she's such a great traveler. Love, Anne"

  7. Another email: "Cathie, Thank you for sharing your excellent Christmas experience with pictures and comments.
    Love, Bill"

  8. Another email: "Dear Cathie ,
    I loved your Santa Fe pictures !!!
    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful trip .
    It's always so amazing to dream about doing something,
    and then find the reality to be as good, if not better
    than the dream .
    Happy New Year !
    Bobbi Loeb"