The magic of winter casts a spell that more than makes up for the need to bundle up in layers, and warm up the car a while. When days are short and nights are long, I have extra time to ruminate on the vibrant mix that has created our unique culture — the indigenous civilizations thriving across the landscape, the inspired seekers who leave their tracks in art and music, and the dedicated citizens who make our city better by their inventive presence. These cultural touchstones bless us with singular reminders of how lucky we are to live in the City Different and how much we have to share in our wintry wonderland.
New Mexico Native Culture Is Alive and Well
Of all the things that I cherish about living in the Land of Enchantment, the fact that we have a rich and thriving Native culture takes first place. New Mexico was essentially unknown to the rest of America for so long — we didn’t become a state until 1912 — so our Native residents simply went about their daily routine, and in the process, kept their ancestral Pueblo lifestyle and traditions intact.
With the holidays close upon us, the best way to dig into the roots of these ancient traditions is to attend a Pueblo dance over Christmas or New Year’s. Pueblo Feast Days are tied to the name day of the saint to whom the Pueblo’s mission church was dedicated, but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dances are a special joy that take place at many pueblos. Seeing stars glitter above in a cold winter sky on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) or snow sparkling on the hillsides makes a holiday Pueblo Dance a must for me and mine. And it’s not just those two dates — Taos Pueblo celebrates with a Turtle Dance on New Year’s Day, and King’s Day dances (January 6) appear on several pueblo calendars, although checking in advance to see who is dancing is part of the drill. And on January 23, we’ll gather for the feast day at San Ildefonso, home of legendary potter Maria Martinez, who originated the black-on-black ware for which the pueblo is renowned. Please remember to honor pueblo protocol: no photos, no notes. Just watch, listen, learn, and enjoy the mysteries of the past brought to life in the present. Check out my post to learn more about the Eight Northern Pueblos near Santa Fe and my recent feast day experience.
Snow Suits Winter in Santa Fe
Cold temperatures generally lead me to warm up via cold weather sports, and Santa Fe is an especially good sport in the winter. The Sangre de Cristo mountain range east of Santa Fe has been frosted regularly, and that means snow fanatics have built up a head of steam for winter sun and fun.
Ski Santa Fe lovers sign up for a daily email snow report on current conditions, and I fess up to have snuggled close to the fire in my jammies more than once to watch the live webcam broadcasts before I don my parka. With 77 trails ranging from snow bunny status (me) to expert adventurer (them), an afternoon or two on the slopes is enjoyable for all, regardless of experience level. When my snow-loving sister comes to visit with time to spare, it’s a breeze for her and the kids to sharpen their skills with one of Ski Santa Fe’s multi-day programs, for both adults and children.
Seeing the pristine Santa Fe vistas at a slower pace has been simplified with a welcome resurgence of old-fashioned snowshoeing. A trek into the Santa Fe National Forest has become one of my more pleasurable outings, with lightweight equipment making it thankfully distinct from carving out a snowshoe trail to the north 40 at the turn of the century to feed the cows — glad I’m living here and now! It’s so quiet out there in the forest that a plop of snow suddenly falling from a branch or the screech of a hawk soaring overhead become those virgin moments I carry inside to inspire me all winter. And novices, I think it’s ever so wise of you to try an adventure in the company of experienced guides like Outspire before investing in the gear yourself. And if you need more ideas for cold weather fun outdoors, check out my Winter Sports post.
Santa Fe Is All Souped Up
If you’re like me, you probably grew up slurping a bowl of soup at school lunches. I can assure you that thanks to living in the food heaven of New Mexico, my soup supping has come a long way since the days of institutional chicken noodle! See what the chefs of Santa Fe have to say — or rather, do — about a bowl of goodness, and put the Santa Fe Souper Bowl XX on your food shopping list. Yes, it’s all about super soups, a topic that warms my heart and the spot below. Since multi-award-winner Jambo Café has retired from the fray, competition for the top slot will be fierce at this year’s benefit event February 1st, making this a savory way to start a month. Get those tickets before they’re all scooped up, because we Santa Feans have been dreaming of duck soup (true, I haven’t seen a duck broth yet, but I just love those Marx Bros.) as we wonder which tempting tureen of taste rates a silver spoon.
It’s All About the Art of the Canvas AND the Plate!
It has to be about art AND food when you call it an ARTFeast! Now in its 17th iteration, this inspired festival raises funds for art in the schools and packs a wallop of fun into one weekend, February 21-23. This host of happenings mixes the passionate participation of artists, galleries, chefs, and vintners to create a yummy one-night-only edible art tour, with a silent auction, an artists’ brunch, an art of home tour, a fashion show, and a golf tournament all thrown in for good measure. The edible art tour is both a challenge and a revelation, as restaurants across the Santa Fe dining scene pair artistic morsels to complement the output on gallery walls and pedestals. My eyes and my taste buds are regularly rewarded by the consummate artistry, and this one is high on my list of have-to-do-it. As befits a hot event in the cool month of February, tickets are already available for all the events, and hotel partners offer special rates over the weekend.
Shine a Light on Dining During Restaurant Week
Our regional cuisine is one of the first things that springs to mind — mouth-wateringly, I might add — so it’s no wonder that we celebrate with a week of great dining adventures every year. So I’m giving you an early heads up: February 23 through March 1, Santa Fe Restaurant Week boasts seven days of dining out deals and has Santa Feans licking their chops in anticipation. There are currently 47 spots on the list, and that list is sure to grow longer as the weeks grow shorter. Personally, I have already started a dining wish list that I’ll be sharing (are you listening, honey?). So clear your calendar, and look for my post in a few weeks with more details.
All That’s Missing in Santa Fe Is You
So many things to do, so hard to choose – that’s why visitors come back to Santa Fe again and again, sometimes decade after decade. No matter what time of year, the sun is shining (no joke, 300+ days per year), a pot of something delicious is always simmering somewhere to tantalize adventurous taste-buds, and ideas just bubble up to the surface in the inspiring atmosphere. We are grateful to the ancient cultures who share their history and traditions with this young century, as we delight in the new pleasures that result from change and growth. Bring your questing spirit to Santa Fe — vision is in the landscape and in those who people it with their talent and drive and plain old fun.