Luminarias Bring ‘Enchantment' to a Claremont Garden

The glowing paper bags are a New Mexico holiday tradition. See them, in full flicker, at the California Botanic Garden.


What to Know

  • Dec. 17 and 18, 2021 from 6 to 9 p.m.
  • $15 adult, $12 senior, student, and child
  • Live music, treats for purchase, and festive installations

If you've ever visited our 47th state on the 24th day of December, chances are as good as a biscochito is yummy that you encountered paper bags, full of sand, placed along driveways, walkways, adobe walls, and the occasional roofline, too.

And centered in the sand, at the bottom of the bag? A small candle, either wax and wick or electric, the sole source of light for the ground-based lantern.

It's the luminaria we're praising here, or, if you prefer, a farolito, which is the common term for the paper bag decorations used around the capital of the state of which we speak.

That state? It's New Mexico, where farolitos glimmer in Santa Fe on Christmas Eve, and luminarias add luminosity to the exteriors of homes in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and towns across the Land of Enchantment.

Luminarias can be harder to locate outside of New Mexico, but there are some special places you can go to behold this singularly splendid display of holiday lights.

One regional favorite in Southern California? It's the California Botanic Garden, in Claremont, which has held a series of atmospheric Luminaria Nights over several years.

This means that visitors to the garden are free to stroll at their own pace while admiring the illumination produced from the small candles, placed in paper bags, sitting atop rocks, paths, and other pretty places.

Adding luminous layers to the distinctive evening aura? Live music, and treats for purchase, and touches that say the holidays are on the way.

If you know the loveliness of the luminaria, and you'd like to bask in that beauty in 2021, you can find tickets to the Dec. 17 and 18 nights at the California Botanic Garden page.

It's an atmosphere-rich, contemplation-cool way to approach the most hectic week of the year, for many people.

Just being outside, near the garden's beautiful shrubs and flowers, all while these small bags shimmer, is a treat for the tired mind, as well as a way for lovers of the Land of Enchantment to connect with a place they surely miss.

Can't make it to Santa Fe, Taos, or Mesilla this Christmas? Call upon Claremont, which has a luminaria-terrific tradition of its own, found along the winding walkways of the California Botanic Garden.

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