Illustrator: Edward Gonzales
Published by Disney-Hyperion on 1995
Genres: Children's Books, Picture Books, Christmas
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It's Christmas in San Juan, New Mexico, and young Luz worries that with her grandfather sick and her father in the hospital, wounded from the war, their usual Christmas celebration will not be. Then Luz decides to make her own little lanterns or farolitos to light the path for the oncoming celebration, and for her father, who returns home in time for the holiday.
The Lights of Christmas
A lovely, heartwarming story of the origins of farolitos, the candles in paper bags that have become a New Mexico Christmas tradition.
It’s Christmas, and Luz hopes her father, injured in the war, will soon be home. Luz’s Abuelo (grandfather) is recovering from a serious illness, and cannot cut the wood for the traditional luminarias (small bonfires) to light the way for los pastores. When Christmas Eve arrives without her father, Luz devises a new way to light the path: small paper bags, filled with sand, each holding a burning candle. Told in simple, heartfelt prose, this Christmas story speaks of familial love, light, and hope.
Unfortunately, The Farolitos of Christmas is out of print, and used copies are rather expensive, but you may be able to find it at your library or through interlibrary loan.
HISTORICAL NOTE: While the actual origins of farolitos date from before World War II, when this book is set, the tradition did not become widespread until the advent of cheap paper bags in the 1930s. It has since spread well beyond New Mexico.
PERSONAL NOTE: When my parents moved to New Mexico, they learned that their street is famous in their town for its Christmas Eve farolitos, and that they were expected to join in. They embraced this new (to them) tradition, and have put out farolitos ever since… although in recent years, due to my stepfather’s advancing years, they have switched to electic farolitos. He puts them out each year on Christmas Eve, helped by whichever family members are visiting. At dusk, the farolitos up and down the canyon-edge street are lit, and families from throughout the town drive slowly down the street, their lights out, to enjoy the beauty of the lights.