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For luminaria displays, it’s hard to beat Jemez Springs and the simple elegance of ‘Light Among the Ruins’

Jemez Springs is known for its natural beauty and officials are trying to grow its artist community. (Courtesy of James McCue)

Jemez Springs is known for its natural beauty and officials are trying to grow its artist community. (Courtesy of James McCue)

Although the traditional lighting of luminarias or farolitos happens on Christmas Eve, the simple but elegant adornment of a small candle in a paper bag weighted with sand is a great way to capture the holiday spirit.

And the “Light Among the Ruins” glow on Saturday, Dec. 12, is an especially cheery way to enter the holidays, said Jemez Springs Mayor Bob Wilson.

“‘Light Among the Ruins’ is an opportunity to experience both the cultural beauty of the Jemez (Walatowa) people and to soak in the warmth and charm of Jemez Springs, which is especially beautiful around the holidays,” Wilson said.

More than 1,400 farolitos spread their soft luminescent glow across the 500-year-old village and on the 1,400-foot interpretive trail ruins that includes the 16th century San José de los Jemez Church.

Free horse-drawn wagons shuttle visitors from the village plaza to the ruins from 5-8:30 p.m.

MAP MASTERAlthough the celebration begins at noon with vendors sprinkled throughout the village, Native American dancers will perform in the evening at the ruins, the tableau lit by a pair of large bonfires, said village spokeswoman Erica Asmus-Otero.

As part of the evening, the village’s official tree will be lighted at 6 p.m., she said.

Tanya Struble, owner of Giggle Springs Hot Springs bath house, helped start the tradition that began in the 1990s after seeing a 1956 New Mexico Magazine edition that showed the ruins lit up.

She took the idea to the council and got approval.

“We started it to kick off the holiday season for the community and businesses,” Struble said.

Choirs and orchestras are booked at the church for holiday music and “if you get my horse-drawn carriage, you will be singing Christmas songs,” she said.

“If you haven’t been here for ‘Light Among the Ruins,’ you have to do it,” Struble said. “It is the most beautiful experience to have. If you can’t get in the mood for the winter holidays after this, then you just can’t get in the mood.”

People flock to Jemez Springs to see the various landscapes. (Courtesy of James McCue)

People flock to Jemez Springs to see the various landscapes. (Courtesy of James McCue)

The Struble’s Giggling Springs (, a portion of which was built in the late 1800s, along with the village-owned Jemez Historic Bath House (, which dates back to the 1870s, are the closest natural hot springs to the Albuquerque metro area and make for a pleasant way to soak away stress, Asmus-Otero said.

The Jemez Bath House, a state historical site, features body wraps, massages and soaks, while Giggling Springs has become well known for its refreshing beverages served to soakers.

“There are 17 minerals, based upon analysis, that are known for healing anything from arthritis to depression,” she said. “Some minerals such as lithium, found naturally in the water, protect brain cells from toxicity and are key in ‘anti aging.’ Some hikers, skiers and athletes come here to heal their aching bodies.”

Those hikers, or snowshoers, have ample natural beauty in the area to sample, from the towering red rock walls of the canyons to the plethora of natural hot springs that gurgle to the surface to the trails along Battleship Rock, Asmus-Otero said. Just outside of Jemez, Soda Dam is a photographer’s delight with its rich colors and streaming waterfalls.

In Jemez Spring itself, a growing artistic community is feeding local galleries like Jemez Fine Art Gallery ( and Jemez Artisans ( with plenty of interesting work.

“Jemez Springs is really trying to expand their art galleries and presence in the art world,” Asmus-Otero said.

A true change of pace to the modern world, the Bodhi Manda Zen Center ( is open to daily Zen practices and retreats, she said.

The center is open to retreat groups and has overnight accommodations in a guest house that can accommodate up to 60 people in six dorms and private rooms.

And the Earth Living Skills School ( provides classes and workshops ranging from part of a day to weeklong. These includes such subjects as primitive fire making, primitive willow basket weaving, survival shelter building and earth camouflage.