5 Southwestern Holiday Traditions We Love

From mastering the art of tamale preparation to cutting down your own Christmas tree, here are five Southwestern holiday traditions to spruce up your celebrations

Tackle tamale-making. A Southwestern staple at holiday parties, tamales are filled with meats, cheese, vegetables and chiles. Sometimes super-spicy and always labor-intensive to prep and wrap, this is one food that is best made by families and large groups (think assembly line-style). Of course, there’s always the co-workers’ kids who are selling them for fundraisers, if you’d rather order by the dozen. No judging here.

Light luminarias. The mild wintertime temperatures of lower elevations open the door to outdoor traditions, including the bedazzling light of luminarias (Santa Feans call them farolitos). If you’ve got paper bags, sand, votive candles and time, this simple Southwestern tradition is yours for the taking. Luminarias originated as small bonfires that guided the faithful to church for midnight Christmas Mass. Here’s a sampling of noteworthy displays:

Cut your own Christmas tree. With hayrides, sleigh rides, hot chocolate and helpers, Christmas tree farms offer a turnkey tree-cutting experience. But for those who want to tromp among the piney woods, summon their inner Paul Bunyan and chop down their own Christmas tree, Forest Service tags to cut trees in national forests can be purchased in each of the Four Corners States. Here’s info to get your started in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

Coordinate a neighborhood Las Posada. This symbolic journey of Mary and Joseph in search of shelter is a Southwestern tradition that reflects early Spanish and Catholic influences in the region. Similar to Christmas carolers, participants go door to door “seeking” shelter and being turned away before ultimately arriving at the house where a party is taking place. The celebration house often rotates each night during the standard nine nights of Posadas, Dec. 16-24.

Create uniquely Southwestern crafts. Nothing says “seasonal” in the Southwest like our own repurposed props. That extra barbed wire from the fence on the back 40? Coil it into a barbed-wire wreath. Thread small terra cotta pots (upside down) with raffia and personalize to make simple ornaments for family and friends. Stitch your own stockings using Navajo-inspired patterns or designs. Use bolo ties (which may be making a comeback?) as bonus gift “bows” on special packages.