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Noche de Luminarias returns for 28th year at NMSU

More than 5,000 luminarias will illuminate the campus of New Mexico State University from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, during the 28th annual Noche de Luminarias.


Paper luminarias illuminate Corbett Center Student Union.
New Mexico State University will host the 28th annual Noche de Luminaria featuring more than 5,000 luminarias from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

One of the largest luminaria displays in New Mexico, the candle-lit paper bags will begin at Pinon Hall, wrapping around the duck pond, following along the International Mall, surrounding Corbett Center Student Union. The Las Cruces High School band will set up the display.

"Every year this event brings together not only the university community, but the area high schools and middle school organizations throughout the Las Cruces community," said Libby Fatta, Associated Students of NMSU assistant director of activities.

Visitors can enjoy trolley rides provided by Frontier Adventures around the luminaria route, and free refreshments including hot apple cider, coffee and cookies will be available inside Corbett Center. The NMSU Barnes & Noble Bookstore will also be open during the event.

"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 to kick off the holiday season.

"It's a really great way for student to relax and get into the holiday spirit before finals and before they return home," Fatta 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 the ASNMSU, Corbett Center Student Union, Campus Activities and Sodexo. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call ASNMSU at 575-646-4415.