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Getting Lit on LeDoux

Ya. So. I caught on fire Friday night. Literally.

However, since our annual Taos block party festival known as “The Lighting of LeDoux” is all about fire and warmth, I guess it was OK to do what I did. I guess the spirit just…lit me.

Too bad my coat is toast.

lighting of ledoux

Every winter, just a week or two before the solstice Taos, New Mexico hosts one of the most entertaining and beautiful holiday-season events around: The Lighting of LeDoux.

lighting of ledoux

It all started in the way-back before the Spaniards ever set foot on this land. The pre-Christian people of the Mediterranean used to light gigantic bonfires on the tops of important mountains to celebrate the changing of the seasons – particularly that of solstice, the darkest time of the year. We all know that this traditions wasn’t limited to the shores of the Iberian Peninsula and surely the indigenous people of New Mexico has similar traditions prior to contact. In fact, it is silly to think these traditions don’t date back to the deepest times of humanity.

lighting of ledoux

But I digress.

The candles and fires lit during the darkest days of the year were and are a beacon of warmth and comfort and a reminder that from here on out the days lengthen and spring will come sooner than later.

So why not celebrate?

lighting of ledoux

The main symbol of our festival has to be the luminaria (also known as faralitos). A luminaria is a simple thing. You put a few scoops of sand into a paper big, stick in a votive candle, light it and set it against that inky winter sky. Boom. Beauty. Then you do it 1000+ more times and line the streets of Taos with them. The luminaria is the powerful light of our party.

Supposedly, luminarias got their origin in the Philippines when traders from China brought their custom of festival lanterns to the islands. From there the Spanish brought the idea to Mexico where the mummers moaned through the dark alleyways of Acapulco lit only by the shrouded candle.

In Taos, the party begins early. Volunteers light the thousands of candles lining the streets from the plaza over and down LeDoux Street to the Harwood Museum. Festivities kick off at 5pm with a ‘come-one, come-all” parade of giant puppets, Santa Claus(s), violinists, bon vivants, costumed ladies and food. Pine bonfires are lit along the road and in parking lots. Several years ago a hidden courtyard was crowded with Matachines guided only by a simple flute. The parade scatters down the back alleys where the art galleries, museums and other stores open their doors with cookies, hot chocolate and sickly sweet margaritas from a fountain.

It was after a tasting of said margarita that my nearly four-year old son and I set up the camera in the midst of the luminarias and shared out the hot chocolate. I added a spot of Red Label to mine. Then, I got busy and focused in on a few pictures and waved to my friends passing by and shot a few more pictures, chatted with a few people and then leaned down for a really good shot.

“Papa. There is fire.”
“I know. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Papa. There is fire on your jacket.”
“Yes. Isn’t that nice.”

“Papa…hey Papa…you have fire….”

“…do you smell that, kiddo? Smells bad. Something is burning.”

“It’s you burning, Papa!”

“Huh? Ahhhhh!”

My coat sizzled out in a handy pile of snow.

“That wasn’t so smart of you Papa.”   Well, no. It wasn’t

LeDoux Street knows how to throw a party.



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