Dec 25—Most days, the intersection of Canyon Road and Garcia Street is a commonplace convergence of skinny pathways and sidewalks marked by a somewhat unusual sign.
“La Plaza de Sueños y Milagros,” the sign says. The plaza of dreams and miracles.
It lived up to its name on Christmas Eve.
The area became, to some extent, a place of dreams and miracles. Farolitos lined walkways and ascended stairs to nearby galleries while twinkling lights twisted around tree trunks. Bells ranked, jingled by carolers or tolled from the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis de Assisi. The air smelled of fire, of burning farolito candles and crackling luminarias.
In the distance, someone shouted, “Welcome, welcome!”
The annual Canyon Road Farolito Walk had begun.
This year’s walk marked the event’s second year back since the height of the coronavirus pandemic kept revelers confined to their vehicles. Revelers flocked to Canyon Road by 5 pm, an hour before the scheduled start time.
Thousands of visitors, ignoring the chill of the evening, came to enjoy the local tradition, buoyed by the festive season.
Robert and Faith Lovitt, an Oklahoma couple visiting family in Santa Fe for the holidays, ambled together up Canyon Road. This year marked Faith’s first time on the walk, a tradition on Robert’s side of the family she’d been hoping to participate in since they were married four years ago.
“I’m really excited,” Faith said as the two set out. “I think it’s beautiful, and it’s a really cool tradition.”
Locals — some annual walkers and some new to the tradition — came to enjoy the evening as well.
Dennis Pettas and Denise Lord-Pettas, married high school sweethearts and Santa Fe residents for the past five years, joined the walk for the first time. Lord-Pettas wore a Santa-style red coat and hat for the occasion.
“I just can’t wait. I’ve driven down this road at Christmastime but never got out of the car. So now it’s time to walk,” Lord-Pettas said.
Pettas, an artist who hand-paints his own musician-themed Christmas cards each year, was looking forward to combining his love of art with the holiday spirit.
“I’m expecting magic tonight,” Pettas said.
“… I’ve never mixed a night of on the town, looking at art, with Christmas. This is my first. [It’s] two of my favorite things to do — gallery-hopping and Christmas,” he added.
Fellow revelers Vicki Todd and Michele English — both artists and Santa Fe residents — planned to pull some artistic inspiration from the evening’s celebration. But they also came to Canyon Road on Christmas Eve to enjoy the evening’s sense of camaraderie.
Todd and English moved to the city four and five years ago, respectively, and both spent their first Santa Fe Christmases alone. The walk offered them fellowship during what can be a particularly lonely time of year.
“It was great to come here,” English recalled of her first Christmas in Santa Fe.
“It was the 24th, and I had something to do. I walked here, and it was one of the most fantastic experiences you could ever wish for.”
“Even if you’re here by yourself and there’s a whole bunch of strangers, there’s a sense of community,” Todd added.
The Farolito Lady, a staple of the Farolito Walk, offered season’s greetings — her wide-brimmed black hat and long black coat glittering with more than 100 battery-powered miniature farolitos. A native Santa Fean, she became the Farolito Lady eight years ago, to add to the evening’s revelry and tradition.
“This is what we do,” she said, declining to give her actual name. “… This has been a tradition in my family. We’ve been doing this for generations, for generations.”
Her hanging lantern, marked with a Zia symbol, lit the way for some walkers as they traveled through the plaza of dreams and miracles.