For those who might be in the Alamogordo or Ruidoso area at Christmas, one way to experience a traditional New Mexico Christmas is to see the luminarias at the Catholic Church in Tularosa, a historic town about ten miles north of Alamogordo.
These photos were taken during the afternoon of Christmas Eve when it seems that practically the entire town participates in setting up luminarias. Hundreds of luminarias are set up outlining the church, lighting up the church grounds, and following the main street in town leading to the church. They are lit at nightfall in preparation for the the special Christmas Eve service which takes place at the church.
The church in Tularosa has the typical Spanish style architecture that is found in New Mexico, and this one dates from 1869. Even without Christmas decorations the town is quite photogenic, and is worth a stop if you are in the area. With the Sacramento Mountains as the backdrop, the White Sands to the west, and extensive pistachio orchards to the south, this is one of the most scenic spots in New Mexico any time of the year. I will say from experience that usually the weather in this part of the state is agreeable enough to enjoy the celebration and possibly a few outdoor activities during the daytime.
The tradition of luminarias signifies lighting the way for Mary and Joseph to find their way to the stable where Jesus is about to come into the world. The tradition of lighting luminarias is found in towns throughout New Mexico, but I find the light show in Tularosa to be one of the most impressive I have seen.
Of course most restaurants are closed late on Christmas eve and on Christmas day, but at other times visitors to Tularosa can enjoy traditional New Mexican cuisine at Casa de Sueños on the south edge of town. I particularly liked the red enchiladas with blue corn tortillas (the blue corn variety is not normally served in southern New Mexico). Casa de Sueños is not particularly spicy, but it is spicy enough to be what I would call “real” New Mexican food that is not dumbed down for tourists. Quite a few tourists stop here, though, because of its reputation for serving delicious New Mexican style food.
I also discovered another stop a few miles south of Tularosa on U.S. 54 and 70 where the McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch has its store and winery at 7320 US 54/70 (but don’t worry about the address, just look for the giant pistachio on the west side of the highway).
Of course one of the main items for sale is the pistachios grown on the McGinn Ranch, and these come in different sized bags according to how many you think you might need. They have a number of different flavored nuts, but after trying several of the free samples I decided to go with the plain ones.
Quite a number of other items are also available, including New Mexico salsas, but I will go into more detail in a separate article on McGinn’s.
McGinn’s is open daily according to the newmexico.org web site, but of course there may be special hours around Christmas.