Culture is fascinating, isn’t it? I think a big part of what I love about reading is how we can travel anywhere in the world just by picking up a book. And at each stop in our travels, we learn something new and interesting about the culture, the people, or traditions of a place.
I especially love reading Christmas stories. It’s so fun to explore world traditions while also reading about new love or friends discovering new feelings. Some days it’s nice to be immersed in a stereotypical small-town white Christmas story with the vintage red truck and a flannel-wearing hero and his neatly trimmed beard while our big-city heroine rethinks her executive boyfriend and decides to stay and help save the local food pantry. But other days, nothing will do but an escape to some unexplored-but-real locale. An adventure with an unconventional hero and heroine someplace we’ve never been.
Being a lifelong reader and virtual world traveler is probably why I enjoy describing local traditions in my own books so much. As much as I love discovering new places, I treasure my role as virtual tour-guide to my beloved home, Albuquerque, New Mexico. New Mexico is a culturally rich environment with a ton of traditions all year through, especially at Christmas.
So far, I’ve written three Christmas novellas, one standalone and two as part of collections. In each, it’s been my pleasure to share such special holiday events as the Old Town stroll and the River of Lights. The Christmas table is often filled with authentic New Mexican dishes such as enchiladas, posole, tamales, and biscochitos. There’s a Twinkle Light parade and a tumbleweed snowman that stands tall by the freeway every year. Other cities have their own special traditions and tourist lures, but none as dear to my heart as the lighting of luminarias on Christmas Eve.
Statewide through the month of December, horizontal surfaces everywhere are covered in lanterns made from plain paper bags filled with sand and a single candle. Rooftops, the tops of walls, along sidewalks, all over. Then on Christmas Eve, the candles are lit and a vigil begins. I could wax poetic on the magic and wonder of our luminaria tours for another five hundred words or more. Instead, I’ll leave you with a few pictures and an invitation to come visit New Mexico in my Christmas stories, where you can visualize the wonder and beauty I see and enjoy with my family every year.
And if you live or have visited somewhere enchanting for the holidays, I’d love to read about it in the comments below! Even if the visit happened literarily, tell me about it! I’ll draw two names from the comments randomly for a copy of Love, Laughter, and Luminarias.
Be blessed wherever you spend this holiday season. May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may your own traditions increase the hope and joy of the season for you and the ones you love!