Taos has a tradition of light. It is famous for the light of the sky (clear & bright) which has caused artists to come visit, & then just stay. It is also known for the glow of the farolitos around Christmas-time.
The farolitos (little-lantern or little-fire) are placed along sidewalks, on rooftops, line adobe walls and at front doors. Traditionally (from the 15th-century Spanish who settled here) they are meant to light the way for the Holy Family, helping guide them to a safe place. They are sign of welcome & celebration. And their warm, soft glow decorates the town.
Easy to make, a brown paper lunch-bag, a bottom covered in sand, with a votive plopped in the middle. Currently, our grocery store has boxes of these "cathedral-style" votives on special display.
Many people now choose to use the electric farolitos (plastic bags on a light string) and these are sometimes referred to as the fake-o-lito or electro-lito.
On the snowy, clear nights, with the smell of pinon & juniper burning from stoves & fireplaces all through Taos, the glowing farolitos combined with a twinkle of christmas lights, help create a festive atmosphere.
Here in northern New Mexico, we call these farolitos, once you get south of Santa Fe, these are called luminarias. This may be explained as how once actual, small lanterns were used as farolitos, and when they were replaced with paper bags, most people began calling them luminarias. But northern New Mexicans are stubborn when it comes to change, in just about all aspects of life, so they keep using the word farolito. Though some like to mix it up, and just call them "bag-o-litos".
They are lovely. And mixed in with the traditions of eating posole on Christmas Eve, baking biscochitos and going to Taos Pueblo for Deer Dances on Christmas Day, the farolitos are another symbol of the deep & historic culture of Taos.