Holiday Lights

‘Luminaria Nights' to Flicker at California Botanic Garden

Small paper bags, lit from within, will set an especially peaceful scene at the Claremont destination.

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What to Know

  • Dec. 9, 10, 16, and 17 from 6 to 9 p.m.
  • $16 general public adult; other ticketing tiers available
  • Live music weave through the garden, while sips and treats may be purchased on-site

Farolitos or luminarias?

If you're in the Land of Enchantment on the 24th day of December, this is a question that is nearly as common as "red or green"?

That last query involves the sort of chile you like atop your enchiladas or relleno, of course, and of course you might tell the restaurant server "Christmas" if you're craving both kinds of heat.

But the farolitos vs. luminarias question is a bit more complex: Some New Mexicans prefer the first term and others the latter.

However you choose to describe these small, sweet, and spectacular sources of illumination, you can bet they've been created with a paper lunch sack or similar bag, some sand for weight, and a tealight, votive, or comparable candle.

Finding these fantastical flickering favorites outside of New Mexico isn't always easy, though you can spy beautiful bags of light lining walkways, driveways, and the rooftops — those are frequently electric versions, of course — in Texas, Arizona, and at points around the Golden State.

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Near Los Angeles? Claremont has become a holiday hub for this harder-to-find lighting display, thanks to the California Botanic Garden's annual Luminaria Nights.

There will be four festive evenings to savor in 2022, starting on Friday, Dec. 9. There's a Luminaria Night on Dec. 10, and two more the following Friday and Saturday nights (so Dec. 16 and 17).

Adding to the luminaria-lined landscape?

Live music, with the sort of lilting melodies that enhance the ethereal experience. Native American flutes, harp, and jazz will be in the spotlight, or, rather, the moonlight.

Luminarias won't be the only glowful eye-catchers around the garden; other displays will dazzle. But the bags are the stars of the peaceful festivities, providing a look-down, look-around loveliness that provides a contrast to those more commonly seen lighting displays, the sparkling scenes we admire when we gaze up and not down.

A general public ticket for an adult is $16, and other ticketing options, including those created for members of the garden, are available.

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