Although almost any stretch of days from mid-December to early January will contain special celebrations, festivities reach their peak on Christmas Eve. Residents compete for the best displays of farolitos and luminarias (bonfires). After midnight mass people stroll around the city, admiring each other’s handiwork and warming themselves at the fires. Anglos are also welcome at several of the local pueblos. For a schedule of events, call the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau (505-984-6760) or the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council (505-852-4265).
The best guidebook to Santa Fe’s historic sites, hotels, and restaurants is Bill Jamison’s The Insider’s Guide to Santa Fe (The Harvard Common Press, 1987). Santa Fe has a number of hotels with historic credentials, including La Fonda and El Paradero. I stayed at La Posada, a sprawling series of adobe buildings with a handsome Victorian-era bar. I was delighted to find my room had its own beehive-shaped adobe fireplace, along with pinon wood, newspapers for kindling, and instructions on stacking the logs.
Travelers with extra time should plan a day trip to Chimayo, a small village in the mountains twenty-five miles north of Santa Fe. Chimayo is known for its weavers and its Santuario, a chapel built on holy ground where pilgrims come to be cured of physical afflictions. Leaving Chimayo, I got thoroughly lost. For miles in every direction there was nothing but reddish brown desert dotted with pinon. During the hour it took me to find my way again, 1 began to sense the force of Spain’s obsession with gold; the conquistadors wandered this stark landscape for years.