Susan’s Christmas Shop has been selling the mouth blown, hand painted glass ornaments by Old World Christmas for over 40 years. We just received an enormous shipment of Old World ornaments, including the popular Roadrunner, the state bird of New Mexico, the Red Chiles, the Turquoise Dias de los Muertos Skull, the Buffalo, and colorful Cowboy and Cowgirl Boots. We have a much larger selection in the shop. If you do not see what you are looking for, call or email us.
Friends of the Crèche is a national American and Canadian club for people interested in nativities. It has had biennial conventions since 2001. Santa Fe will be the location of the next biennial convention this November. We invite you to attend!
- First join Friends of the Crèche
- Then register for the convention downloading the form below:
New Mexico is called the “Land of Enchantment” because it is so different and special. Our biennial convention in Santa Fe this year is called “Land of Enchanting Nativities”. We will meet at La Fonda, a famous historic hotel right on the plaza of Santa Fe. This hotel has an amazing art collection throughout the hotel and inside each guest room. There are free tours of this art, guided by docents. Just ask the concierge in the lobby.
The focus of our convention will be on the nativities of the American Southwest. On the mezzanine of La Fonda will be a special exhibit of fine southwest nativities, borrowed from many collectors, and displayed inside locked cases. Some of the artists who made these nativities are no longer alive.
Would you like to add to your nativity collection? There will be one market where you can buy nativities directly from the Pueblo and Navajo Indians who made them. As usual at our conventions, there will be another market where you can buy nativities from dealers whose merchandise may be from outside the southwest.
Would you like to reduce your nativity collection? Bring those nativities to the convention for the “Silent Auction”. The sale of these nativities will bring money to Friends of the Crèche and find new homes for the nativities you are donating. Click here to send Susan photos of these nativities, if you can.
We will begin on Friday, November 8th, with an evening reception at the Museum of International Folk Art on “Museum Hill”. The Girard Wing of that museum has many nativities on display, because Alexander Girard loved and collected nativities. He essentially created the entire field of southwest nativities when he asked Sallie Wagner to encourage her Indian friends to make nativities. Girard will be given a posthumous award for his splendid and long lasting contribution. When you view the Girard wing, you will be asked to find as many nativities as possible. There will also be live music and food to nibble. There will be several southwest nativities from the museum’s collection on display in Lloyd’s Treasure Chest, which is at a lower level, accessible by an elevator. If you are still hungry after the reception, you might like to have dinner at one of Santa Fe’s many good restaurants. A list of restaurants will be given to you, with choices ranging from affordable to fine dining.
The formal opening of the convention will be on Saturday morning at La Fonda’s ballroom. The mayor of Santa Fe will give a proclamation. Later that morning, another mayor, the mayor of Belen, New Mexico, will give a talk about defending the public nativity in his town. Belen is south of Albuquerque. Belen is Spanish for Bethlehem.
Susan Topp Weber will speak on the subject of Southwest nativities from the different cultures we have in New Mexico, such as Pueblo, Navajo, New Mexico Spanish, and Anglo. She is the author of an award-winning book on the subject.
Christopher Toya from Jemez Pueblo will speak on the unique custom of “Bethlehem” at that village. This is a live indoor nativity consisting of a husband and wife who allow their pueblo home to become “Bethlehem” between Christmas Eve and Epiphany while they host the wooden baby from the village church. Chris will have photos of various different Jemez Pueblo versions of “Bethlehem”, from its beginnings to the present. Jemez is a pueblo where photography is not allowed, so it will be a rare privilege to see them. Chris Toya is the first person to research this subject. Don’t miss this talk!
After lunch on Saturday, we will see a Spanish Colonial Christmas play called Los Pastores (The Shepherds). The amateur group of actors is from a catholic church in Belen, New Mexico. They own a rare surviving colonial script. The play has a musical aspect, and they sing and play music during the play. The script is in Spanish.
Charlie Carrillo is a well-known Santa Fe maker of religious images. These makers are called santeros in New Mexico (but not in any other Spanish speaking country). He has personally taught most of the artists who sell at Spanish Market on the Santa Fe plaza in late July. Years ago, Charlie designed a New Mexico style nativity, which was reproduced for a few years, but is no longer available. It was very popular and those who own one feel very fortunate.
Charlie spoke at our convention in 2005 and he designed the logo for that convention. He will speak again at this convention.
Charlie survived a serious automobile accident two years ago and we are lucky he is still alive.
After his talk, we will enjoy New Mexico hot chocolate and Susan’s hand-formed biscochitos, the official state cookie of New Mexico.
On Sunday morning, after the annual meeting of Friends of the Crèche, Kathy Chilton will speak on how to repair broken nativities. She spoke to us in 2005. Her talk is titled, “Oops, I Just Dropped My Best Nativity. Now What Do I Do?”
Sunday afternoon, there will be demonstrations in La Terazza at La Fonda by New Mexico Spanish artists in a variety of techniques, such as wheat straw applique, woodcarving, painting, or a colonial embroidery stitch called colcha. You will be able to watch, ask questions, and buy directly from the artists. The various markets and exhibits will be open till 3:30.
There will be a service available for packing and shipping any treasures you purchase.
Also on Sunday afternoon, Susan Weber will give briefings to those planning to go to Jemez Pueblo Feast Day on Tuesday, November 12th. If you have paid to be on one of our rented buses, you will be fed in a pueblo home. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive to Jemez Pueblo. It is a public event.
Sunday evening, we can meet at La Terazza, the lovely hall with dramatic second floor views of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. We will enjoy fellowship and drinks with new and old friends prior to the formal banquet in the ballroom that ends the biennial convention in Santa Fe.
On Monday, some of our attendees may be exploring Santa Fe and Taos or Los Alamos and Bandelier or Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. Others will be going on a tour of homes with fine nativity collections, a sold out event. Some attendees will be going to Jemez Feast Day on Tuesday, November 12th.
If you have not yet registered for Land of Enchanting Nativities, but are interested, please do not delay, as it is likely to sell out. If you have never been to Santa Fe, come and discover this international destination in the Land of Enchantment!
- First join Friends of the Crèche
- Then register for the convention downloading the form below:
Susan’s Christmas Shop is filling up with decorated eggs and other Easter items!
Susan Summers once worked in my shop many years ago. She learned to decorate eggs using the Ukrainian technique called pysanky. Her skills have been honed for over thirty years of practice. Some of her eggs feature a well-known Navajo design call Yei’i, sometimes seen on Navajo rugs. Other eggs by Susan have Mimbres prehistoric pottery designs, made colorful by using the strong pysanky dyes. Susan also uses traditional Ukrainian designs, but her southwest eggs are unique and popular. The sizes are chicken, duck and goose.
Call the shop if you want one: (505) 983-2127.
Giving an egg at Easter is an established tradition in Russia and Eastern Europe. If you like Fabergé style, we offer jeweled egg charms to add to a chain necklace. The charms are sterling silver with semi-precious stones.
A beloved New Mexico Easter tradition is to walk as a pilgrim to the Santuario de Chimayo on the High Road Taos. Good Friday is the most popular day to walk. There is sacred dirt at the Santuario de Chimayo, famous for healing. Trudel Gifford, a Santa Fe artist, got some of the sacred dirt and has put it into vintage saltshakers of various sizes, with paintings of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the glass. Trudel calls the custom saltshakers “Salt of the Earth” and her tag says, “Sprinkle as needed for miracles”. They are a nice gift for a friend with a sense of humor. Call us: (505) 983-2127.
I hope you will come into my shop before Easter, to see all these special bunnies and eggs in person. If you live too far away to do this, I send my affectionate greetings, where ever you are in this wide world. Enjoy the first flowers of spring!
December 6th is Saint Nicholas Day. My Albuquerque friend, Kathy Chilton, has a family tradition where everyone writes a letter to Saint Nicholas on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, telling him what to bring them for Christmas. One year, Kathy had a houseguest from Nepal, who had never heard of Santa, but who was willing to write a letter with the other family members. When everyone was asleep, Kathy and her husband read his letter. He asked for a picture of Santa in a glass ball, so he could show his family in Nepal when he returned. Kathy realized he was asking for a Santa in a snow globe. She looked everywhere but could not find one. Reluctantly, she got him a practical Christmas gift instead.
On Christmas Eve, Kathy always had a dinner at her home, asking the guests to bring a Christmas gift. One guest brought a gift for the man from Nepal. She said to Kathy in the kitchen, “I don’t know what he’ll do with it, and it’s a bit heavy, but…” To Kathy’s amazement, it was a Santa in a snow globe. Now Kathy says she believes in Santa Claus.
That story and many more are in the book about my shop, Susan’s Christmas Shop.
Santa Fe is starting to look like Christmas. The electric lights in the plaza trees were dramatically lit the night after Thanksgiving, preceded by a loud countdown by the crowd on the plaza and followed by great cheers.
It’s all fun, but it was a bit like Time Square with so many brightly colored electric lights. The quietly burning candles nestled in sand inside their paper bags on the ground were overlooked, even trampled on by the enormous crowd on the plaza that night. I’m glad I have seen Christmas displays in past years where the serene beauty of hundred of glowing luminarias or farolitos inspired awe, quiet contemplation and anticipation, heightened by the fact that the beauty was only for a few hours and would disappear by dawn.
Sunday night was Las Posadas on the plaza. The Santa Fe plaza version has included the role of the devil since 1982 when the neighborhood on San Antonio Street agreed to perform their unique version on the plaza. The devil character was borrowed from another Spanish Colonial play Los Pastores. Saint Michael fights the devil in this play and always wins. A group from Belen, New Mexico, will perform Los Pastores at the convention of nativity collectors in Santa Fe next November. They own a rare script from New Mexico’s colonial days. Belen is the Spanish name for Bethlehem.
Last year, the devil’s role in Las Posadas on the plaza was censored and expelled, and the public missed that comic feature. This year, the devil’s role returned to delight the crowd as it followed Mary and Joseph around the plaza, looking for room at the inn. Finally, they all entered the courtyard of the Palace of the Governors for an hour of wonderful local, live Christmas music in English and Spanish under the stars. Don’t miss this event if you are in Santa Fe.
The model train in the lobby of First National Bank on the plaza begins running today, delighting children of all ages till Christmas.
Here is an engineer I know. He’s wearing a real Rio Grande Railroad hat, and his vest is real railroad uniform too.
Does this make you want to come to Santa Fe at Christmas?
If you live too far away to do this, I send my affectionate greetings, wherever you live in this wide world.
Susan Topp Weber
This nativity by Louise Alvarez is made of driftwood she finds along the shores of lakes. Louise is the youngest child in the large family of the late Ben Ortega of Tesuque. Ben was famous for his unpainted wooden figures of Saint Francis. Louise was married to David Alvarez, another talented folk artist, and David and Louise made many pieces together.
Since David’s death in 2010, Louise has continued to create driftwood angels and nativities, and she now signs her work with her famous maiden name, Louise Ortega. The nativity above is her masterpiece. It includes a shepherd with his flock of sheep, the three wise men, and the nativity, with two hovering angels above. The figures are all pegged into the base.
Priscilla Jim lives in Acomita, one of the villages below the ancient pueblo of Acoma, an hour’s drive west of Albuquerque. She paints traditional Acoma pottery designs onto white slip-cast bells and cats. She uses the traditional black paint for Acoma pots, made from a native plant called Rocky Mountain beeweed. This plant is boiled down to make the black paint. Sometimes the paint is poured into a small corn husk basin to cool. If it cools in the pot it is though to remove. The corn husk acts as a disposable palette for the paint.
Priscilla’s bells and cats have been among the most popular ornaments at Susan’s Christmas Shop since the 1980s. Priscilla delivers her work to my house before 8:00 a.m., after a two-hour drive from Acomita. Then we talk like old friends. I recently learned that her late grandmother, Frances Torivio, made a large Acoma pot in my collection. Frances Torivio is considered a matriarch of Acoma pottery. Perhaps Priscilla inherited her grandmother’s painting skills.
For more works by Priscilla Jim, click here!
Santa Claus is well known and well loved by children and the young at heart. We now have a new category on our website called the Santa Collection. Check it for all kinds of unusual Santas. Some are German, some are southwest, some are wooden, some are hand woven, some are painted pewter, and some are pueblo pottery.
Our beaded Santas can be worn as jewelry. Santa Chiles can hang on your tree. Susan’s daughter, Melissa, made both the jewelry and the chiles.
Santa collectors now have a place to search for something new for Christmas!
During my high school years, I lived in Germany. I have unforgettable memories of those magical times. Years later, my mother made a little ornament of a baby inside a walnut shell cradle, which was inspired by a German one. But my mother’s ornament lacked a baby’s head. I made a tiny baby head of salt dough, painted the little eyes and mouth, and glued it inside. My daughter, Melissa, was inspired to copy this ornament for my shop to sell, but she has no sewing machine. My sister, Sylvia, sewed the fabric for her, and Melissa assembled the real walnut shell (it’s not easy to crack a walnut shell perfectly), the cotton fabric, the wire frame for the cradle’s curtain, and the tiny hand painted baby head I made.
This unique ornament is now available on my website, the product of four members of my family and three generations, my mother, my sister, my daughter and myself.
If you are in Santa Fe, please stop by my shop and say hello and see all the new items that have arrived.
Your friend in Santa Fe,