The Holidays in Santa Fe
Immediately following Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Thanksgiving break, the first snow of the holiday season settles on the ground for one short morning. Local shops decorate their windows with displays of miniature yuletide scenes and sale signs. Downtown Santa Fe’s trees drape with thousands of twinkling bulbs, casting blue, pink and gold rouge on the adobe buildings. The luminarias have been lit.
With bellies still full from holiday feasts of turkey, casseroles and pies, students at SFUAD gear up for a festive December. For Alison Gamache, a Creative Writing and Literature major, the most prominent post-Thanksgiving activity is her family’s tradition of Christmas tree hunting. “My entire family meets at our cabin…and we all snowshoe out into the woods and pick the perfect Christmas tree,” Gamache says. She describes having to climb out the kitchen window some years because the Wisconsin snow barricaded the doors. “There are so many times I remember giving up and collapsing into the snow on the lake and just watching the snowflakes float down until I was almost covered,” she says. After picking the perfect tree, Gamache’s family ties it to a sled and hauls it back home to be decorated.
Santa Fe has already done its own decorating and the December calendar is littered with events for residents to enjoy lights, food, music and the company of loved ones. Annual favorites such as GLOW, a spectacular light display at the Botanical gardens, on Dec 16th, and Christmas at the Palace, a celebration attended by Santa Claus himself, on Dec 9, will be returning. Other holiday events include concerts, Las Posadas, the Ballet and a multitude of locations perfect for an evening stroll.
Santa Fe’s variety of winter events makes it possible for anyone to enjoy an evening with family or friends, despite religious practice. For some families, the winter holidays can be a compromise. Felicia Mackey, a senior CWL major, finds the holidays can often be a battleground at home. “My family doesn’t fully celebrate [holidays] because my dad was raised Jehovah’s Witness,” Mackey says. “We do gifts…and I force my parents to listen to Christmas music, but there is no tree or decorations.” Mackey describes having drawn decorated trees and hanging them up beneath her television. While her family has never settled on any particular holiday celebration, she and her mother have their own tradition. “We volunteer at a church down the street… [we] hand out food and toys.” The tradition holds a special place in Mackey’s heart.
Marisa Doherty, senior CWL major, begins her own decorating. She adorns a small tree with tinsel and gold-trimmed ribbon. Doherty is also passionate about the importance of time spent with loved ones as she recalls a very special Christmas her family celebrated two years ago. “My maternal grandmother had just died, and that loss hung over [my family] the entire holiday season,” she says. Doherty mentions she was baking gingerbread cookies that Christmas Eve when she learned her paternal grandmother had been hospitalized and, following the recent loss, feared for the worst. “After many dramatic phone calls in which we told everyone we knew to ‘come quickly, she might not make it,’ the doctors told us it was just a severe case of dehydration. They released her the next day.”
Doherty’s grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, did not remember being hospitalized. “[There was an] atmosphere of terror when we all thought she was dying, followed immediately by this Christmas miracle, as corny as that sounds,” Doherty says. “By the end of the party, she was so sick of all of us offering her water, not realizing why we were so fussy.”
Despite the rapid approach of finals week and the ending of a tumultuous 2016, SFUAD’s student body approaches the holidays with nostalgia for the past and optimism for the future.