Nov. 20, 2008 by Beth Sitzler NMSU News Center
The 24th annual “Noche de Luminarias,” held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Corbett Center Student Union, offers the New Mexico State University and Las Cruces communities the opportunity to enjoy a peaceful night of lights and entertainment before the rush of the holiday season.
“Noche de Luminarias” (Night of Lights) is one of the largest luminaria displays in southern New Mexico with 5,000 luminarias lining the sidewalk from the Educational Services Building to Jordan Street. Las Cruces High School Band members set up the luminarias.
Entertainment will include performances from the NMSU Aggie DanceSport group in the Corbett Center auditorium and “Vista Vibrations,” the Vista Middle School Hand Bell Choir, at Crossroads, also located in Corbett Center. Performance times will alternate to give audience members the chance to view both performances. Both groups have performed at “Noche de Luminarias” in the past. Refreshments also will be served in Corbett Center and the NMSU Bookstore will be open for holiday shopping.
Trolley rides provided by Frontier Adventures will be offered from 6 to 9 p.m. The rides will go from the east side of Corbett Center, around the duck pond and back.
Bruce Vandevender, assistant director of campus activities, said “Noche de Luminarias” was started by the student union, campus program board and campus housing as way to kick off the holiday season.
“It started with housing and then Corbett got involved and it grew from there,” Vandevender said. “I like that it isn’t a lot of commercialism and hoopla. It’s just a nice time to walk around, listen to carolers and reflect before the hustle and bustle of the holidays.”
The tradition of lighting luminarias in New Mexico dates back to the early 16th century. Small fires called luminarias, also known as farolitos, the Spanish word for “little lanterns,” were placed along the roads and churchyards to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ and guide individuals to midnight mass. By the early 19th century, settlers in the U.S. were hanging Chinese lanterns from their doorways, but found the lanterns to be expensive, so many began to burn candles buried in sand and placed in small paper sacks.
Today, the luminaria is used throughout the Southwest as a symbol of hospitality and welcoming to all that cross its path during the holiday season.
“Noche de Luminarias” is coordinated by Campus Activities and sponsored by Auxiliary Administration, Associated Students of New Mexico State University, the Dean of Students, Office of Facilities Operations and Corbett Center Student Union.
It is free and open to the public.
“I encourage everyone to join us,” Vandevender said. “If you experience it once, you’ll want to come back every year.”