Taos may be a small town, but the range of festive events here make for a big holiday season. Smithsonian Magazine has called Taos one of the best 20 small towns in American for holiday festivities. Below are some of the season’s highlights.
Music, art and theater
19th Annual Holiday Fiesta
A free community event on Dec. 3, featuring live performances by local music and dance groups at Millicent Rogers Museum. (575) 758-2462, millicentrogers.org
Alumbra de Questa
The 2nd annual Christmas Craft Market in Questa on Dec. 10-11 features a wonderful variety of regional arts and crafts, and festive food. In the European tradition, the weekend event will stay open until just after dark to enjoy the unique vision of thousands of fairy lights and hundreds of farolitos lining the center of town. Contact Dina Coleman at (575) 586-0694 or email email@example.com.
It can be a challenge to find a new Christmas play — one that hasn’t been seen over and over, isn’t religious based or for children; not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s not what Taos Onstage performs. Director Charlotte Keefe of Taos Onstage knows she found a new play in Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays.” She describes the holiday radio play as “a mystery farce that happens on Christmas Eve.”
The play won the 2012 Edgar Award for Best Play from the Mystery Writers of America. It is December 1936 and Broadway star William Gillette, admired the world over for his leading role in the play Sherlock Holmes, has invited his fellow cast-members to his Connecticut castle for a weekend of revelry. But when one of the guests is stabbed to death, the festivities in this isolated house of tricks and mirrors quickly turn dangerous. Then it’s up to Gillette himself, as he assumes the persona of his beloved Holmes, to track down the killer before the next victim appears. The danger and hilarity are non-stop in this glittering holiday whodunit.
Held at Taos Mesa Brewing on Dec. 13-14, the performance can either be enjoyed in dinner-theater style or by watching the show only. The dinner theater begins at 6 p.m. both nights. Tickets are $30, $15 for the show only. Dinner reservations are required by calling (575) 224-4587 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The curtain rises at 7 p.m.
Taos Chamber Music Group
“Schubert for the Season”
Dec. 17 and 18
Now a Taos favorite, virtuoso pianist Gleb Ivanov will return for an all-Schubert program. Music that sets the tone for the holiday season includes Schubert’s commanding Wanderer Fantasy for solo piano, the Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen from Die schöne Müllerin for flute and piano, and the monumental Piano Trio No.1 in Bb Major. Joining Ivanov on piano are LP How on violin, Sally Guenther on cello and on flute, TCMG director Nancy Laupheimer. Performances on both nights start at 5:30 p.m. in the Arthur Bell Auditorium at The Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux St.
Franz Peter Schubert (1797–1828) was an Austrian composer. Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the late Classical and early Romantic eras and is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early 19th century.
For 24 years, the Taos Chamber Music Group (TCMG) has reflected the Land of Enchantment by presenting the imaginative and inspirational performances for which it has become known. Programs often reflect the beauty of our surroundings as well as the unique cultural diversity of the Taos area, earning TCMG a reputation as one of Northern New Mexico’s most innovative and successful music series.
Call (575) 758-0150 for further concert information. Tickets are $25 for adults; $12 for children under 16 and students. They may be charged online at TCMG’s website taoschambermusicgroup.org or by visiting or calling The Harwood Museum, 238 Ledoux St., (575) 758-9826. Advance tickets can be purchased by calling The Harwood Museum or online at taoschambermusicgroup.org.
This holiday celebration rich in culture is also known as The Festival of Lights. Now in it’s 15th year and growing, the Taos Jewish Center will host the Peace Chanukah on Dec. 28 from 5:30-7 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church.
Taos’ special Chanukah celebration was born from the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks. This highly attended event is heralded as “not just a Jewish thing,” as those who participate will see and feel the galvanizing power of hope and prayer for peace in an all-inclusive atmosphere. This year’s speakers include ????. This inspirational Peace Chanukah (the “c” is silent) features musicians who will lead the group in singing songs about peace.
Everyone is invited and encouraged to bring menorahs (candles provided) to be lit during the event. There is no charge for admittance however, those who can are asked to bring a nonperishable food item to put toward a collection for the Shared Table, the St. James Food Pantry and the Taos Coalition to End Homelessness.
The event is sponsored by B’nai Shalom Havurah, the Taos Jewish Center and St. James Episcopal Church. For more information, contact the Taos Jewish Center at (575) 758-8615 or go online to taosjewishcenter.org.
This traditional re-enactment of the journey of Joseph and Mary in their search for lodging as the impending birth of Jesus nears is still performed by some parishioners of San Francisco de Asís Church in Ranchos de Taos and others from area villages from Dec. 16-24.
Traditionally, an upstanding young man and woman are given the honor of portraying Joseph and Mary. In full costume, they are accompanied by others holding candles, who sing traditional Spanish verses while going walking from house to house asking for posada (a place to stay). Joseph and Mary are refused lodging for nine consecutive nights before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, they are invited into the last home they visit, with the peregrinos (pilgrims) following along.
This beautiful pageant usually begins at dusk and follows a planned route. The public is welcome to watch at any point on the route. Look for candle night and flashlight beams, and listen for the music.
For information where Las Posadas routes will take place, call the San Francisco de Asís Parish Office at (575) 758-2754.
Procession of the Virgin Mary at Taos Pueblo
Unchanged and unmatched in wonder and drama, Taos Pueblo holds this special Christmas Eve celebration where friends, relatives and visitors gather in the Pueblo plaza around luminarias at dusk in anticipation of the annual procession. The scent of burning ocote wood permeates the dark winter air like incense. Gunshots are heard, as Pueblo men fire hunting rifles toward the stars as part of the tradition of welcoming La Nocha Buena (the good night) and La Navidad (Christmas — the birth of Christ).
The celebration begins around sunset after Mass at San Geronimo Church. Once the riflemen signal the birth of Christ, they part the crowd to allow passage for the procession featuring a statue of the Virgin Mary hoisted high upon a dais. Accompanying the procession are Pueblo drummers, dancers and female singers — singing in English and Tiwa — as Mary is returned to the church.
For more information and visitor rules of etiquette, call (575) 758-1028 or go online to taospueblo.com.
Matachines or Deer Dance
Christmas Day is observed at Taos Pueblo with either the Deer Dance or the dance-drama Los Matachines. The latter ceremonial dance is born from cross-cultural references among American Indian and Hispanic New Mexican heritage.
The consensus among most historians is that the name “Matachines” comes from the Arabic Moorish culture, which had much influence on the Spanish language. It means “masked dancer” or “masked person.” When first introduced to the Americas and to tribal peoples in the Southwest and Mexico, this pageant served as a kind of morality lesson. La Malinche represents good and purity with the dancer in this role being a girl in her pre-teen years. El Toro (the bull) symbolizes the temptations of worldly living. Throughout the dance, the Matachin performers follow La Malinche and chief dancer El Monanca (the king) dressed in solid white. Through dance movements, Malinche convinces the 12 dancers to follow her. El Toro is kept at bay by the Ahuelos, who also serve as guardians of Pueblo traditions.
It is a splendidly colorful display of pageantry — the dancers are festooned with multi-colored ribbons and carry a three-pronged wand called a palma. At the end, the 12 dancers culminate in intricate motions weaving 12 long, vibrant strands of yarn belts or ribbons.
During the Deer Dance, dancers file into line, richly draped in deerskin, wearing antler headdresses and carrying a stick in each hand representative of a deer’s front legs. Whether this ceremony is invoking the deer spirit or celebrating the season is unknown. This dance is for the Pueblo people and not intended as holiday entertainment, per se. Nonetheless, this beautiful and moving dance can be witnessed by the public. Cameras, cell phones or any recording device are not allowed during these events.
For more information and visitor rules of etiquette, call (575) 758-1028 or go online to taospueblo.com.
30th Annual Yuletide Caroling and Tree Lighting
Get into the holiday spirit when the one-of-a-kind 2016 Taos “Yuletide” season officially kicks off with the 30th annual lighting of the towering Town Christmas tree, the Electric Light Parade and local entertainment at Historic Taos Plaza. With more details to be announced, join Taos Mayor Dan Barrone at this community event along with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, who will be back to hand out Christmas stockings stuffed with goodies. Keep an eye out for the Grinch, as he’s an annual sleigh stowaway. The free event on Dec. 2 from 4-6 p.m. culminates in the countdown and the mayor’s lighting of the white fir tree that was a gift from Taos Pueblo to the citizens of Taos.
Enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and cookies while strolling the Plaza shops who will remain open. Vehicles are not allowed on the Plaza during this event. Special parking arrangements will be provided for people requiring ADA access. (575) 758-3873, taosgov.com
If Norman Rockwell were still alive, he would undoubtedly be inspired to paint a Taos “Americana” holiday scene and that scene would be the Lighting of Ledoux. This popular, charming, unpretentious local block party takes place Dec. 3 starting at 5 p.m. on historic Ledoux Street. The narrow thoroughfare glows with the magical light from farolitos and luminarias. The streets’ galleries, shops and museums are open, offering holiday food and drink. People gather around the fires and share their stories in the cool starlit night. Santa Claus will make a special visit to the Harwood Museum offering goodies for the kids at 5:30 p.m.
While visitors are welcome and encouraged to attend, Lighting Ledoux is known for signaling to Taoseños that the holiday season in Taos has begun. Just as Lighting Ledoux lets us know that the holidays are here, being at the historic Ledoux District reminds you that you’re in Taos.
The Ledoux Street area — a crooked, narrow road tucked away just west of the Plaza — was originally built in a fortress style. It is lined with authentic adobe structures, most of which date back to the territorial era. Beautifully painted doors, window panes and entrance gates please the eye. This is old Taos, as pure as winter’s snow. (877) 587-9007, taos.org
Bonfires on Bent Street
The John Dunn Shops on Bent Street glow from the warming bonfires peppered along the pedestrian walkway on Dec. 10 all day with a reception from 4-7 p.m.. Shops offer snacks, music and events all day. A reception with farolitos, luminaries, food, music, Santa and more begins at 4 p.m. (877) 587-9007, taos.org.
Twirl Holiday Crafting
The Yuletide Caroling and Tree Lighting on Dec. 2 is a popular party for children, but not the only one. On Dec. 3, 10 and 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Taos’ own Twirl — play and discovery space — will host holiday crafting and gift-making activities in the upstairs playroom. Twirl is located just off Taos Plaza at 225 Camino de la Placita. (575) 751-1402, twirltaos.org
Historic Ledoux Street is the site for this year’s holiday pet party, Santa Paws, on Dec. 10 from noon to 4 p.m.. And where’s there’s dogs, there’s kids. Santa will find out what your pet wants for Christmas, and pose for a photo with your pet. Pets available for adoption will also be present. And there will be hot beverages and snacks. (877) 587-9007, taos.org.
Sipapu Annual Christmas Eve Party
The annual Christmas Eve tradition from 5-8 p.m. at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort near Peñasco includes holiday music, fires, lights, a children’s art project and food and drink in the historic lodge. Free and open to the public. (800) 587-2240, sipapunm.com
— Staff report
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass around the Enchanted Circle
Taos: Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 205 Don Fernando St., Dec. 24 Masses at 5:30 p.m. and midnight; Dec. 25 Masses at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., (575) 758-9208.
San Geronimo Chapel at Taos Pueblo, Dec. 24, 4 p.m., traditional vespers followed by Communion service.
Ranchos de Taos: San Francisco de Asís Church, 60 St. Francis Plaza, (575) 758-2754, due to the last Las Posadas, Dec. 24 Mass begins at 11:30 p.m.
Angel Fire: Holy Angels Catholic Mission, 34 Westridge Rd., Dec. 24, 5:30 p.m., (575) 376-2553.
Arroyo Seco: Holy Trinity Parish, 498 State Road 150, Dec. 24 at 8 p.m., (575) 776-2273.
Eagle Nest: St. Mel’s Catholic Church, 200 Willow Dr., Dec. 24 at 4 p.m., (575) 377-1937.
Peñasco: San Antonio de Padua Church, 15071 State Road 75, Dec. 24 at 9 p.m., (575) 587-0399.
Questa: St. Anthony Church, 10 Church Plaza, (575) 586-0470 ????
Red River: St. Edwin’s Catholic Church, north end of Silver Bell Trail, (575) 586-0470?????