Luminaries An Albuquerque NM Christmas Tradition

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Albuquerque Homes Realty *

Luminaries An Albuquerque NM Christmas Tradition

Luminarias in Snow Albuquerque

Luminaria is Spanish for Lamp.

This wonderful New Mexico tradition is Christian in nature with the idea that the small lamps or Luminaries would light the way for Mary and Joseph as they made their way to the stable and the birth of Christ.  Originally the lamps were placed only on Christmas Eve but you will most often see the Luminaries through the holiday season.

The Luminaries are simply a votive candle set inside a brown paper bag weighted with sand and placed in a row with others along a walkway, driveway, or rooftop as a holiday decoration.  The nightly job of lighting and maintaining the candles is all part of the experience, windy nights can play havoc as paper bags go up in flames.  For that reason the modern versions are often electric or battery powered.

Old Town Albuquerque stays with tradition and lights the luminaries only on Christmas Eve and yes they are the real deal. The entire square’s walking paths, streets, Gazebo and the famous San Felipe de Neri church all adorn these magical lamps.  This is a must see event if your in Albuquerque during Christmas

The Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Boy Scouts sell the candle and sand bag Luminaries.  Place your order early and don't be left out in the dark!

While you’re out enjoying the Christmas lights or the subtle glow of Albuquerque, Rio Rancho’s and surrounding NM area Luminaries.  You may just spot a home for sale you’d like to view.  Contact me,John McCormack I am able to show you any home listed for sale.

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Terri Poehler
Realtor - Coral Springs, FL
Coral Springs Real Estate Agent

I love the look of these. So pleasant. I didn't know there was a history behind it! Thank you for educating.

Dec 06, 2011 02:07 AM #13
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

John, That is very interesting to learn.  Love it that the Boy Scouts are selling them, good for them.

Dec 06, 2011 02:33 AM #14
Patricia Feager
Selling Homes Changing Lives


There's something to be said for traditions. This is so beautiful! It warms your heart just looking at the photo and hearing the story.

I guess the risk of fire is always there, so I can understand why someone would have to monitor it. It reminds me of the stories of candles burning on Christmas Tree branches. Crazy - but very beautiful.

I love the Christmas story and what every culture brings to their traditions.

Nice post about a Christmas story that should never be forgotten.



Dec 06, 2011 02:37 AM #15
Belinda Spillman
Aspen Lane Real Estate Colorful Colorado - Aurora, CO
Colorado Living!

John,  These are always so magical looking the way they light the path.  I always wondered why the bags dont catch on fire.  Wonder if the bag is sprayed with something inside to prevent that.  Nice picture. I might need to put some of these on my inside stairway at night.  I fell UP the stairs the other night.  Looking at my phone instead of where I was going, I totally missed the final two steps.  What a clutz I can be at times.

Dec 06, 2011 03:06 AM #16
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


I love this tradition.  We had a friend who did that every year at her home in Beverly Hills.  She had a nice winding path to the front door, and it cast a festive light...A

Dec 06, 2011 03:09 AM #17
Will Nesbitt
Nesbitt Realty at Condo Alexandria - Alexandria, VA
Nesbitt Realty is a family-run brokerage.

Great post John, I love traditional events of all natures, wonderful photos!

Dec 06, 2011 03:44 AM #18
Joshua Zargari
MJ Decorators Workshop LI staging and home decorating - Lynbrook, NY
MJ Decorators Workshop

Hi John.

A great post indeed.

Dec 06, 2011 04:48 AM #19
Vickie Nagy
Palm Springs, CA

Looks lovely John! I can certainly see where the windy nights would play havoc with the open flames. But they are so lovely! It's nice to hear that Old Town stays traditional

Dec 06, 2011 05:01 AM #20
Brad Rachielles
CENTURY 21 Peak, Ca BRE# 01489453 - Upland, CA


While Southwestern in flavor, the idea has traveled far. Can remember being the Luminarie "keeper" back in Illinois, that being the one to set them out and keep them lit. We would love to have them on fresh snow all up and down the street on Christmas Eve.

Dec 06, 2011 06:48 AM #21
Tammy Emineth
Personal SEO - Website SEO and Real Estate Marketing - Marysville, WA
Content Marketer, SEO Teacher, Website Fixer

So where's the response here??? huh huh?  ;-) JK. I love this type of decoration. There was a street in the town I grew up that did this every year. As people moved away, fewer and fewer people participated.

What is your picture of? They look like they are covered in... snow? IS that what I'm seeing? They are so beautiful!!

Dec 06, 2011 07:53 AM #22
Peggy Chirico
Prudential CT Realty - Manchester, CT
REALTOR® 860-748-8900, Hartford & Tolland County Real Estate

Nice post, John - I love luminarias and your picture is just beautiful.  Also very nice layout and presentation on your blog!

Dec 06, 2011 08:50 AM #23
Cathy Criado
Criado Realty - San Antonio, TX
Making Real Estate Profitable

Yup, yup, yup! Luminarios estan muy sentimentavos (sp). I like it when people carve out little designs. It's so nice. Glad to know other areas celebrate in similar ways. By the way, we don't put chilis on trees, we eat them before they get there. Nahh, a few make it :)

Dec 06, 2011 11:06 AM #24
Pacita Dimacali
Alain Pinel - Oakland, CA
Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA


When I lived in Tallahassee FL, one development started this tradition. And they continued for decades. This is what distinguishes this community, and gives it a strong atmosphere of neighborliness and cooperation. Today, it's still a sought-after development.

Maybe I should start something like that here!


Dec 06, 2011 01:52 PM #25
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Ohhhhh, they look so beautiful, John!  I love luminaries!    We have a neighborhood close by - in Granite Bay that lights them on Christmas Eve every year. 

Dec 06, 2011 02:28 PM #26
Marge Piwowarski
Phoenix AZ Horse Property - Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC

I love that tradition!  The Phoenix Arboretum offers night programs with the pathways lighted by luminaria, it is a not to be missed Phoenix Christmas Celebration. 

Dec 06, 2011 04:04 PM #27
Joni Bailey
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services - Anderson Properties - Huntsville, TX
Your Huntsville / Lake Livingston Area REALTOR®

My best friends mom was into these when we were around 16. They were the bags with the rubber bands and a BIG PAIN IN THE REAR to put out! Glad that didn't last long. Now days they re much better!! LOL!

Dec 06, 2011 04:11 PM #28
John McCormack
Albuquerque Homes Realty * - Albuquerque, NM, Albuquerque Homes Realty

Hi Laura,  You know these Albuquerque Lumanarias really are romantic, I have actually seen them on summer evenings used as low light for an outdoor diner party.  Simple and subtle!

Hi Debbie, It really is pretty, one of those things you really need to personally see! Come visit!

Hi Marilyn,  Indeed a good climate! Normally not too much snow or wind this time of year.  But when its bitter being the Lantern tender is a frosty job!

Hello Maureen,  These Albuqurque Lumanaries do not fair well in the rain or wet.  You have seen a soggy paper bag before right?  That is one of the jobs of the "Lantern Keeper" to replace wet bags and melted candles, or bags that caught on fire.

Hi Kathy,  You know I think the first time you see them is the most intriguing for sure.  I have witnessed people getting out of the car to peak into the bag to see if indeed it is what they think it is!  Glad you got to experience them early and during the Christmas holiday!

Hi Ronald,  The first time I was exposed to these was in Wyoming as a kid, my folks were from NM so they new the tradition, however in WY it was unknown.  We actually made our own candles and even had to use pipe cleaners for some of them because we had purchased all the wicking material in the state I think..Anyway it was a huge hit and the cars would line up for blocks to see the mystery decorations at the McCormack home.  I think they all thought we were all a bit loco!   Here is a Photo of that Display.  This is over 40 years ago!

Luminaries in Casper Wyoming at 730 Clarendon McCormack Home

Dec 07, 2011 11:47 AM #29
John McCormack
Albuquerque Homes Realty * - Albuquerque, NM, Albuquerque Homes Realty

Hi Charita,  The winds can certainly be an issue, but when it is just too windy the candles don't get lit.  The sand keeps thing weighted but the bag lying over the flame can be problematic for sure.

Hi Marco,  Well the tradition was actually small bonfires, not bags obviously..LOL  I really think this is more a Nwe Mexico tradition than an Old Mexico tradition.  The Spanish name for the luminaries is Faralitos.

Hey BLiz, Old town is Magical at Christmas, the ambiance is just hard to describe, very peaceful, very alluring and quite satisfying. 

Larry and Sheila,  Have to laugh cause that was exactly my response to Bill and Liz above.  Indeed Magical!

Hi Keith,  Candles have dangers no doubt indoors and out.  Caution is king! Stay safe through the Holidays!

Hi Toni,  It is pretty indeed.  Many neighborhoods work together to put out Luminaries the city even schedules but tours through those neighborhoods particularly in the Country Club addition and the homes on Rio Grande.

Hi Terri,  Happy to share the History, that is the best part!  A lighted pathway to the place of Christs birth!



Dec 07, 2011 12:23 PM #30
John McCormack
Albuquerque Homes Realty * - Albuquerque, NM, Albuquerque Homes Realty

Hi Will,  The Boy Scouts no where and when to be.  They know where the action is at!

Hi Patricia, I now wish I had utilized a better photo this just not seem to illustrate the ambiance well. I did add the photo above but this was not taken in NM.  The fire risk really is nominal but they must be monitored especially when sitting on someones roof top!

Belinda..NO do NOT put these on your stairway..Buy a flashlight or flip the switch..LOL  There is nothing sprayed on the bags, a small votive candle burns quite nicely in the comfort of the surrounding brown bag.  Give it a whirl but have a fire extinguisher ready, cause your trouble..ROFL

Hi Ron and Alexandra,  The affect of these when utilized on the grounds of a Spanish hacienda or expansive grounds is phenomenal. That is when they have the greatest impact and allure!

Will, I agree tradition is what makes all the difference.  The history and the meanings bring it all together!

Josh,  Glad you enjoyed!

Vickie,  Old Town is THE place to be for this tradition! Its in a square so well protected even should the breeze pick up.  I hope to capture video to share this year!

Hi Brad,  Indeed the traditions has traveled far.  I knew it was a never seen event in Wy about 40 yrs ago as described in my earlier response with photo. Glad to see it is taking hold, even in Illinois!

Hello Tammy,  I know I have been bad about my response, but I'm trying to catch up!  The photo is of Luminaries in the snow, that makes them even prettier!  There are many neighborhoods that focus heavily on pulling this off each year, it brought so much traffic the city had to set up bus tours.

Hi Peggy,  Thank you for the nice compliments, I always appreciate someone observing the layout and sharing their thoughts.  Glad you could enjoy and share!

LOL Cathy,  I know we have guest come over wanting to boil up some chili, those things need to be eaten not hung out on a tree.  Hey some of us are just a bit loco, ehh?

Hi Pacita,  You know this really is the kind of thing that brings neighbors together, a common goal or function that attracts interests and gives it definition.  This may just be the ticket!  Make it happen Girl!

Hello Dee Dee,  So glad you get to enjoy the tradition and the simple beauty of these little lamps. 

Hi Marge,  That has to be gorgeous indeed!  Long live the Luminaries!

Hello Joni,  Ok, what are the rubber bands for?  I have never heard or seen that?  I need a visual..Help?


Dec 07, 2011 12:51 PM #31
Tammy Emineth
Personal SEO - Website SEO and Real Estate Marketing - Marysville, WA
Content Marketer, SEO Teacher, Website Fixer

Thanks for the response! I love the pics in the snow and finally figured that out. HA! They look awesome! And your follow up pic is just as beautiful1

Dec 13, 2011 02:28 PM #32
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