Holiday Luminaria

Light the Winter’s Darkness

A luminaria is a small paper lantern that is basically made from a candle that is set in sand inside a paper bag. 

Luminaria is a Spanish word that means "festival light". Historically it referred to a small festival or bonfire.

Now they are traditional Christmas season lights. They are often arranged in rows to create large and elaborate displays along pathways to the home, the church or other location.

Some folkloric traditions suggest they originated in Spain. Merchants were impressed with the elaborate New Year paper lanterns of Chinese culture and decided to make their own version for the Christmas season. Among Roman Catholics, it is believed that the lights are intended to guide the spirit of the Christ child to one's home.

Common across the American Southwest, these Christmas lights today are sold commercially as a string of electric lights or strands of outdoor ornaments that stay lit throughout the winter.

In states like Arizona and Texas, luminarias can also be found at Halloween time. Pumpkin faces drawn onto bags are placed outdoors as seasonal decoration.

To Make Your Own Luminaria:

1. Open a lunch-size paper bag and blow into it to fill it out.

2. Fold the edges over to short the bag.

3. Place about two cups of gravel or sand into the bag. This weighs the bag down so it doesn’t easily blow over.

4. Set the lit tea light into the bag, making sure it is securely placed on the sand or gravel.

5. Place the bag in its place in the row.