Christmas Events in Southern New Mexico | Things To Do In Las Cruces |

“Christmas Eve is such a special time here in the Town of Mesilla,” said Mesilla Mayor Nora Barraza. “The streets are lined with thousands of luminarias. Seeing the look of wonder on the faces of visitors, as they join local residents and the local choir singing Christmas carols, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and cookies. The genuine, heartfelt warmth of our surroundings with the laughter of children in the background and family pictures taken in front of the Christmas tree in the middle of the plaza and of everyone getting together celebrating the birth of the Christ child makes such a heartening, magical moment,” said Mayor Barraza, whose grandmother came to Mesilla in 1881. She has served on the Mesilla Town Council for nearly 20 years, including the last 11 as mayor.

The images painted by Mayor Barraza’s words could define winter holiday celebrations throughout Southern New Mexico and buen vecino (good neighbor) El Paso. Ours are unique for the crackle and aroma of piñon fires, the taste of posole and biscochos, and the sight of endless luminarias beckoning those who live here and those who visit to experience the unique traditions, the joy, the warmth, and the welcome of espíritu de Navidad.

In Mesilla, five or six crew members and a forklift put up the enormous Christmas tree on the historic plaza the last week of November, said Mesilla Special Events Coordinator Dorothy M. Sellers. The tree includes “hundreds of standard ornaments, a handful of streamers, and homemade ornaments from [the students of] Mesilla Elementary.” The Mesilla tree lighting is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 3.
Mesilla also decorates its town hall and Veterans Park for the holiday, Dorothy said, and the town will be illuminated by thousands of luminarias on Christmas Eve.

Just across the Rio Grande, City of Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Department crews will erect a giant Christmas tree at the Plaza de Las Cruces downtown, said Parks and Rec Director Sonya Delgado.

Beginning in mid-November and continuing for three weeks, about 20 city employees, under the direction of Parks Administrator Franco Granillo, will use ladders and lifts to put up decorations throughout the plaza, at city hall, Armando “Mondy” Castañeda Service Center, the Regional Aquatic Center, Meerscheidt Recreation Center, and the Frank O’Brien Papen Community Center, Sonya explained.

In addition to the tree, city decorations include colorful lights, holiday wreaths, picture stands, and holiday banners hung from light poles at the city’s Hadley Sports Complex and throughout the downtown area. Sonya added that the city adds new holiday decorations every year.

Alevy Chabad Jewish Center of Las Cruces will host its annual and eagerly anticipated menorah lighting on the first night of Chanukah, Sunday, Nov. 28. Rabbi Bery Schmukler says the event will begin at 4:30 p.m. at Plaza de Las Cruces downtown and is free of charge and open to everyone. It will include a live Chanukah concert, latkes, jelly donuts, crafts, and lots of giveaways. Rabbi Schmukler said the center is working on making this year’s menorah lighting “the biggest and best yet.” For more information, call 575-524-1330 or visit

Just a few hours east of Las Cruces and Mesilla, you can experience a holiday event in Carlsbad you will never forget. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Christmas on the Pecos, “and we are really working on expanding the event to be more than a boat ride,” said Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Tourism Coordinator Jill Barkley. “We have added even more lights and displays, making it bigger and brighter. This year, we are adding an outdoor movie screening of classic holiday movies every night of the event. We plan to have lots of events each weekend during Christmas on the Pecos to include food vendors and some form of entertainment.”

This year’s festivities will include a free community concert with Holly Tucker, a finalist on NBC’s The Voice, performing Saturday, Dec. 18, Jill said. Every night of Christmas on the Pecos will include “shopping, hot cocoa and, of course, Santa Claus,” she continued.

Approximately 150 Carlsbad homeowners decorate their backyards along the Pecos River for the unique event, she said. Boat rides will begin Friday, Nov. 26, and continue through Friday, Dec. 31.

“We have two brand new boats this year, The Rudolph and The Holly, each seating up to 65 passengers,” Jill said. The boats will make three tours each for a total of six tours per night. Each tour is 40 – 45 minutes long. The first departure will be at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 – $18, with special discounts for Eddy County (home to Carlsbad) residents. There is a 50 percent discount for service members. Visit

Just a couple of hours north of Las Cruces, “decorative lights are a major part of the campus beautification efforts that are ongoing at Western New Mexico University in Silver City,” said WNMU Communications Specialist Jennifer Olson. “The trees lining both College Avenue and 10th Street, which have benefitted from recent improvements, are draped in white lights from late fall into spring. Each tree is hung with about three strands of ‘twinkle lights,’ as WNMU president Dr. Joseph Shepard famously calls them. Luminarias also grace The Gardens at Light Hall where the hillside is terraced, and rock walls and steps offer an opportunity to showcase layers of the traditional New Mexican decorations.”

After skipping it last year because of the pandemic, Jennifer said WNMU will bring back the Jingle and Mingle community holiday event on Friday, Dec. 3, for which the university decorates its large trees with garlands and twinkle lights.

“Jingle and Mingle will take place at the Fountain Stage at Regents Square and brings the community together for music, treats, and time together, as well as special guests who in the past have included Santa and the Grinch,” Jennifer said.

The decorations in Ruidoso, nestled high in the Sierra Blanca Mountains and surrounded by the Lincoln National Forest, will go up in midtown for Thanksgiving and stay around for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. The village will also hang holiday lights at School House Park and Wingfield Park, and they hope to host a Festival of Lights the first week in December. The Flying J Ranch will also have a special Christmas celebration this year, and there will be sleigh rides in the upper canyon to view the lights.

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There’s so much more! Truth or Consequences is hosting their Old-Fashioned Christmas Friday, Dec. 10, from 5 – 9 p.m. with a tree lighting, bonfires, carolers, refreshment, and performances. It starts at Evelyn Renfro Park and continues downtown.
Elephant Butte State Park’s Dec. 11 Luminaria Beachwalk features 3,000 luminaries on paths along the beach and offers campsites with posole, chile, cocoa, cookies, and s’mores, plus there are carolers and Santa.

Don’t forget the monthlong Winterfest celebration in El Paso. Visit or contact them at 915-534-0600 or [email protected].

Enjoy your holidays and remember to confirm events before attending to make sure nothing has changed.


Written by Mike Cook
Courtesy photos

Originally published in Neighbors magazine. 2021

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