The Beautiful Glow of Luminarias

Dori Wittrig December 2, 2020

The tradition of setting out luminarias in the Southwest is a favorite for many people. It began in New Mexico as far back as the 16th century and may have been imported from Mexico or the Philippines.
Originally, luminarias were made from stacking pinon branches to form a cube, like the way a fence or log house was constructed. This box shape allowed the fire to cast the most light and heat with the least amount of flame. The pinon is abundant in New Mexico and the resin has a distinct and pleasing fragrance that is synonymous with the winter holidays.
As the tradition spread across the state, and eventually across the Southwest and into other states, farolitos were more commonly used. Farolitos are brown paper bags with sand in the bottom and a lit candle. Many neighborhoods and communities line their streets and driveways with these on Christmas Eve. They are simply called luminarias.
The late Sharon Morgan, former mayor of Fountain Hills, once brought this beautiful tradition to our community. The effort was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, but it was Sharon who coordinated all the moving parts, including an army of volunteers to place and light luminarias from the fountain on up much of Palisades for three nights in a row.

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