More than 6,000 luminarias will illuminate the campus of New Mexico State University from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, during the 29th annual Noche de Luminarias.
One of the largest luminaria displays in New Mexico, the candle-lit paper bags will begin at the Educational Services Building, follow along the International Mall and surround Corbett Center Student Union. The Las Cruces High School band will set up the display and the Las Cruces High School Brass Choir will serenade visitors as they venture through the lighted path.
"I cannot think of a better way to begin the holiday season than by walking around the campus, engulfed in the warmth of the light provided by the luminarias, and listening to the sounds of caroling and children laughing," said Bruce Vandevender, director of NMSU's Department of Campus Activities. "There is excitement everywhere."
Visitors can enjoy trolley rides provided by Frontier Adventures along the luminaria route and free refreshments, provided by Sodexo, inside Corbett Center.
This year, there will be about 15 NMSU student organizations set up throughout Corbett Center with activities for the children. These activities will include holiday ornament making, holiday card making, a Santa Claus photo booth, a cupcake walk, a "pin the nose on the reindeer" game, and a cookie decorating booth.
Also, the Dona Ana Youth Choir and the student organization Dancers Unlimited, will perform inside Corbett Center.
"Noche de Luminarias" or "Night of Lights" is a university tradition that began in 1984 as the President's Holiday Reception. It is a way for the university and community to kick off the holiday season with an evening of festivities and entertainment.
"Somehow, it magically transforms even the oldest person into a little kid," Vandevender said.
The New Mexican tradition of luminarias, also known as "farolitos" or "little lanterns," originated in the 16th century as a Spanish tradition of lighting small bonfires along the roads and churchyards to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ and to guide people to Midnight Mass. In the early 19th century, U.S. settlers on the Santa Fe Trail hung Chinese paper lanterns to illuminate their entryways, but because the hanging lanterns were easily damaged in the wind, small bags were made and placed on the ground, rooftops and along pathways.
Today, luminarias are placed throughout the Southwest as a symbol of hospitality and welcoming to all who cross our paths during the holiday season.
"Noche de Luminarias" is sponsored by NMSU Campus Activities, ASNMSU, Housing and Campus Life, Auxiliary Services, the Barnes & Noble at NMSU, Sodexo and Corbett Center Student Union. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call ASNMSU at 575-646-4415