Like many things in Taos, annual events are bound together by a variety of influences.
In the case of San Geronimo Feast Day, you can point to the Roman Catholic St. Jerome for whom the commemoration honors; or to the Pueblo Indian trade fair that stretches back to the frontier era; or to the annual harvest and what it means for survival through the winter.
Ultimately, though, San Geronimo Feast Day a celebration rooted in the ritual life of the Taos Pueblo people.
Each year, the feast day begins with a Catholic Mass, Sept. 29 in the San Geronimo church of the pueblo’s plaza. The next day, Sept. 30, visitors are greeted by the sight of a traditional foot race conducted at dawn on the north side of the historic village. Afterward, visitors are free to peruse a rather extensive arts and crafts fair where a wide variety of Native-made items will be for sale. Items include jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculptures, drums and much more. When you need a break, several food vendors will have snacks available.
Since this is known as a feast day, family and friends of village residents are invited to private homes to sit down for a Pueblo Indian feast of red or green chile, fry bread or horno-baked bread, corn, beans and squash, among other dishes. These meals are not open to the public.
By mid-afternoon, the sacred clowns (known in Tiwa as “Chi-pu-nah”) will appear in the village plaza to harass and joke with the vendors and tribal members. These are considered sacred teachers, called upon to instruct tribal members in proper, humble behavior or to discipline. The latter also applies to visitors, who have been known to get thrown in the river for infractions.
Sometime around 4 p.m., the clowns will gather at the foot of a tall pole in the center of the plaza atop which are a variety of harvest goods. They will then proceed to try climbing the pole. The one who gets to the top will then set about lowering all the items to his brothers below. This is a breathtaking event that will long be remembered.
The foot races, dances, the clowns and pole climb at San Geronimo Feast Day are part of the tribe’s Native religion, which means that all photography and recording is strictly prohibited. So, leave your cameras, cell phones, and recorders at home or risk having them confiscated by tribal officials without recourse. For more information, call the Taos Pueblo Tourism Office at (575) 758-1028 or visit online www.taospueblo.com.
Taos Pueblo requests that visitors abide by these rules for San Geronimo Day:
1. No cameras or recording devices
2. No cell phones
3. Please respect the "restricted area" signs as they protect the privacy of our residents and the sites of our Native religious practices.
4. Do not enter doors that are not clearly marked as curio shops. Each home is privately owned and occupied by a family and is not a museum display to be inspected with curiosity.
5. Do not enter the walls surrounding the ruins of the old church and our cemetery.
6. Do not wade in the river. It is the Pueblo’s source of drinking water.