It’s been said that Christmas celebrations in New Mexico are unlike anywhere else in the world. That’s due in large part to the convergence of the Christian holiday with Native American traditions.
Our state hosts 19 different pueblos, and throughout the month of December, they are engaged in celebrations honoring both their ancestors and the Christian beliefs brought by the Spanish during the 16th century.
As Travis Suazo of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center says, it took decades for the holiday to be absorbed by the Native people of the state. Throughout the centuries, traditions incorporating the Winter Solstice, Feast Days and Matachines dances have been married with Christmas trees, the Nativity and luminarias (or farolitos, depending on what part of the state you’re in).
Suazo also says that the enduring strength of Native Americans to adapt to other nations have created the most unique celebrations of the holiday within the USA. That’s certainly true within the tribal lands of New Mexico.