December is full of Luminarias

Southern New Mexico lights up with bags and candles


Luminarias (small bonfires) were first recorded in the 16th century, when Spanish people lit bonfires along the roads to guide people to Midnight Mass on the final night of Las Posadas. This was done to reenact the story of Mary and Joseph's quest for lodging in Bethlehem. It is a tradition proudly continued by the people of southern New Mexico.

Dec. 2, 5-7 p.m. in Columbus, in the south of Luna County, the Pancho Villa State Park hosts its 13th annual Luminarias event. Hot chocolate and live music provide the background for this walk around the site of historic events. Fees are waived for this event.

Dec. 3, 4-9 p.m. Noche de Luminarias at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces provides trails and walkways around Corbett Center with more than 8,000 luminarias lining the International Mall, the Alumni Duck Pond, and Corbett Center Student Union Horse-driven carriage rides, hot cocoa and caroling provide highlights for anyone who chooses to stroll through the area. 

Dec. 8, 5-7:30 the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park hosts a luminaria stroll across the desert along a paved ADA-accessible trail.  Includes family -friendly activities like marshmallow roasting, stargazing and holiday caroling. The park, managed by the Asombro Institute for Science Education, is located at 56501 N. Jornada Road in Las Cruces. 

Dec. 9, 5-8 p.m. the Elephant Butte Luminaria Beachwalk includes tree lighting and a Floating Light parade on the lake. Thousands of luminarias line the paths leading to community sponsored bonfire campsites with posole, chile, cocoa, cookies and more. Visit Santa or stop by the Steel Soldier’s campsite to make a donation to Make-A-Wish.

Dec. 9, 5-7 p.m. at Rockhound State Park near Deming, hot citer and biscochitos are available for your walk around the luminaria lighted trails.

Dec. 15, 5-9 p.m., on the rio, Fort Selden Historic Site invites visitors to celebrate the long winter nights during Noche de las Luminarias, where visitors can expect more than 900 luminarias lining the Fort’s footprint, a campfire, and family-friendly activities, including holiday-themed crafts. Fort Selden Historic Site,1280 Fort Selden Road, Radium Springs, New Mexico (I-25 to exit 19, 13 miles North of Las Cruces, N.M) follow the signs. Tickets for the event can be purchased now by visiting

Dec. 23, beginning just before dark, a labyrinth of luminarias winds around at Whiskey Creek Zocalo where caroling, mulled wine and s’mores highlight the evening.

Dec. 24, on Christmas Eve a visit to Tularosa reveals a town lit up with luminarias, turn the lights to parking and enjoy the streets highlighted as St. Francis De Paula Church wears its best candles arching over, on and around its walls.

Dec. 24, also on Christmas Eve, at dusk the White Sands KOA in Alamogordo decorates its roads and spaces with the luminaria trail for the Christ Child. Located at 412 24th St., the KOA welcomes visitors from all over.