Culture

Lighting of Ledoux, a Taos community tradition

What started as a customer hook turned into a holiday treat for the whole community

By Tamra Testerman
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 11/28/18

The lighting of farolitos and luminarias is a cherished holiday tradition along Ledoux Street, named after two French-Canadian fur trappers and brothers, Antoine and Abraham Ledoux.

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Culture

Lighting of Ledoux, a Taos community tradition

What started as a customer hook turned into a holiday treat for the whole community

Posted

The act of holding a light against the darkness is a tradition among many spiritual practices and beliefs, said Genevieve Oswald, one of the owners of Shree Yoga on Ledoux Street.

She and others will light the candles for farolitos this year for Lighting Ledoux, a Taos community event that according to Oswald draws hundreds of people to the famous street named after two French-Canadian fur trappers and brothers, Antoine and Abraham Ledoux.

It all happens Saturday (Dec. 1) from 5-7 p.m. The entrance to Ledoux Street is located one block from the southwest corner of Taos Plaza.

Shemai Rodríguez, the manager of membership and events at the Harwood Museum of Art and, one of the principal organizers for the event, described Lighting Ledoux as "a 20-year-old Yuletide tradition in Taos where visitors and locals rub elbows and share in a uniquely New Mexican experience."

According to Rodríguez the event started in 2000 when "owners and employees from the street's museum owners and employees from the street's museums, galleries, studios and shops were trying to think of ways to highlight the street. Longtime Ledoux Street artist Inger Jirby mentioned that for winter solstice in Finland, her homeland, they light lights to celebrate the change in season."

The street, Rodríguez said, is a short, narrow thoroughfare that over the years developed a peculiar significance. "It is on a slight ridge where several adobe structures were built in a fortress style at the beginning of the 19th century, most by the brothers. There was a bustling fur trade in Taos. With the influx of artists in the years after 1898, Ledoux Street became the community's first art district. The Ledoux brothers journeyed into New Mexico around 1830 with a scientific expedition commanded by Maj. Stephen H. Long, according to David J. Weber's book 'The Taos Trappers: The Fur Trade in the Far Southwest, 1540-1846.' "

Rodríguez said "farolito" means "small lamp" or "small lantern" in Spanish. These are the small paper bags weighted with sand in which a candle is placed that will be seen lining the streets, walls and walkways throughout the historic district in Taos and certainly along Ledoux Street for the event.

A "luminaria" is a different thing, she said. "This refers to a bonfire built in a particular square pattern. Some homes use farolitos and luminarias to light the way for the holiday tradition 'Las Posadas.' Some say the tradition originates with lighting the way for the Catholic faithful walking to church for the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. Today, it is also a secular tradition to signify the holiday season and for many homes replaces the electric Christmas light."

Ledoux Street will be closed to vehicles beginning at 2 p.m. when a local Boy Scout troop will set up the farolitos.The festivities begin at 5 p.m. on Taos Plaza when Father Winter rides in a parade led by "Maria," a vintage fire truck provided by the Taos Volunteer Fire Department.

From Taos Plaza, Father Winter will lead the parade down historic Ledoux Street as it winds its way down Ledoux to the Harwood Museum where he will spend the next two hours handing out presents to kids and hearing their holiday wishes. The event is free to the public. Taos Community Choir will sing Christmas carols up and down the street.

Rodríguez said there is "a heightened level of participation this year, highlighting the community spirit that is the heart of the event."

Participating businesses include Stella's Restaurant, which will serve soup, Shree Yoga is doing the candlelighting, and Seldom Creek Gallery will host an open gallery with refreshments, live music and a special Lighting Ledoux sale.

Waite Company will host an open gallery with refreshments. Wumanti is taking part, and Inger Jirby Gallery will have a blazing bonfire, a marshmallow roast and an open gallery. The E.L. Blumenschein Home and Museum courtyard will have hot cider, storytelling, and a bonfire. The East Studio Art League is also serving refreshments and having a bonfire, and Salon Marjorie will host a DJ and serve refreshments.

Rodríguez said, at the Harwood, "Our staff and volunteers invite you to join us. Bundle up the family and come to Ledoux for outdoor holiday lights, music and Christmas cookies. Visit with Father Winter. Be creative with art projects in the Fern Hogue Mitchell Education Center. Then, do holiday shopping in the museum store, which is offering a 10 percent discount to everyone during Lighting Ledoux. Although the museum's galleries will not be open, admission vouchers will be available for future visits. Holiday carolers from Taos Community Chorus will stroll along the street, stopping at different locations for a Yuletide song or two."

For more information, call the Harwood Museum at (575) 758-9826 or visit harwoodmuseum.org.

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