Advent in Santa Fe 2018

Spanish Colonial Play Los Pastores Santa Fe NM

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.

Santa Snow GlobeOn 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.

Christmas-Santa-Fe-Plaza-Lights

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.

Spanish Colonial Play Los Pastores Santa Fe NM

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.

Christmas-Model-Train-Santa-Fe-NM

The model train in the lobby of First National Bank on the plaza begins running today, delighting children of all ages till Christmas.Christmas-Model-Train-Santa-Fe-NM Engineer

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.

Happy Advent!

Susan Topp Weber

The Church of the Holy Faith Glass Ornament

CHURCH OF THE HOLY FAITH GLASS ORNAMENT

Our newest glass ornament for 2017!

The Church of the Holy Faith on East Palace Avenue is the oldest Episcopal Church in New Mexico. It is known for its beautiful nineteenth century leaded glass windows in the sanctuary. The most gorgeous window of the church is the Good Shepherd window. Originally this window was above the altar and the church was called The Church of the Good Shepherd. Later, the church was enlarged by Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem. The window was moved to one side and church became The Church of the Holy Faith, the translation of Santa Fe in English.

CHURCH OF THE HOLY FAITH GLASS ORNAMENT
The Church of the Holy Faith Glass Ornament, back.

This glass replica of The Church of The Holy Faith was created in Poland. A clay model was sculpted to create a mold. The mold was used to blow a glass ornament with the breath of a skilled glass blower. The resulting clear glass shape was silvered inside with a liquid silver. Artists painted the outside of the ornament. Finally, a cap was inserted. It takes almost a week to make one, every step by hand. Ten percent of the sales price will de donated to The Church of the Holy Faith in Santa Fe.

You can order your Holy Faith glass ornament at this link.

Mary Ray Cate’s Southwest Advent Calendars

Native America Advent Calendar

Mary Ray Cate is a talented Santa Fe artist who creates southwest advent calendars for Susan’s Christmas Shop. Each advent calendar has a different theme, and Mary Ray paints the cover painting and the twenty-four scenes which are revealed when the doors are opened. The day to begin opening doors is December 1st. Each calendar celebrates and teaches about the culture of The Land of Enchantment, such as a New Mexico pueblo, a Spanish village on the High Road to Taos, or the Santa Fe Trail.

This year, 2017, the new calendar has a scene inside an adobe house decorated for Christmas. Grandfather is playing his guitar for the children to dance. One of the doors opens to reveal a drawing of Susan Weber’s biscochitos, the state cookie.

Rhyme Advent Calendar

Susan like to form hers by hand. Occasionally Susan has a tin of these pretty biscochitos in the shop to offer to customers. The recipe is in Susan’s first book, Christmas in Santa Fe.

Biscochitos

To see all Mary Ray Cate’s advent calendars click here!

Charlie Carrillo’s Retablo

Charlie Carrillo is a local santero in Santa Fe, making art in the New Mexico Spanish Colonial Style. He has been a friend of mine for many years. In northern New Mexico, the word santero is understood to mean a person who makes religious images. Charlie once told me that santero is “a made up word”. Don’t look for it in a Spanish dictionary or use it in South America. They will not know what you mean, but in Santa Fe it is a useful word because of Spanish Market on the plaza in late July.

Charlie has a PhD in anthropology. He has written several books, and he has taught most of the artists who currently show at Spanish Market. He and his family have a booth at Spanish Market, usually on the west side of the plaza, opposite the First National Bank.

Charlie Carrillo was recently in a terrible automobile accident. He was a passenger in his car on the Interstate close to Santa Fe at 9:30 in the morning. His wife, Debbie, was driving at a normal highway speed when they were hit from behind at ninety miles an hour. Both cars spun out of control. Charlie’s air bag did not deploy. He broke twenty-three bones, including his back. I learned about the accident from a customer in Michigan (thanks, Kim!) and I immediately went to the hospital to see him. Charlie was cheerful, realistic about his injuries, but confident that he would heal. He soon acquired a body cast and was sent home. A big sign on his front door reads, “Come in please”.

I learned that the driver who hit his car was under-insured. Charlie will not be able to work for months. He will need some money. I thought of a way I could help him. It is related to a long association with this talented man.

Charlie Carrillo's Nativity
Many years ago, Charlie designed a nativity in a New Mexico Spanish Colonial style. This nativity was reproduced and sold by a national company. It could stand on a shelf or be displayed on a wall.

My shop sold hundreds of these popular reproduction nativities. I remember Charlie kneeling on my living room floor, signing the bottom of the nichos, the wooden cabinets that held the figures. The reproduction nativity was made in the Philippines. They seemed to understand the style because they had also had a Spanish Colonial history. Eventually, the Philippine factory closed and the production was moved to China. When there were problems with the quality of the Chinese work, and when we mentioned these problems, the company simply decided not to make them any more. We could not change their mind. My shop keeps a request list of customers who want to buy one if they are ever available again.

Charlie Carrillo Poster 2005In 2004, I asked Charlie Carrillo to design a logo for the biennial convention I was hosting in Santa Fe in 2005 for Friends of the Creche. This organization is for people who are interested in nativities. Because we were already friends for years, and because the reproduction nativity was still available, Charlie generously created this logo as a watercolor.

It is now framed in my house. The calligraphy is by Kathy Chilton. Charlie and Kathy were both speakers at the convention, which I called Land of Enchanting Nativities.

To raise money for Charlie Carrillo in his hour of need, I recently asked Lynn Garlick of Lynn Garlick Retablos in Taos to help, using Charlie’s logo to make an ornament. Lynn makes the many retablo ornaments I sell in my shop.

Then I got Charlie’s written permission to use his image. Michela, my employee who is so talented in computer technology, removed “Santa Fe 2005”, which you can see on the framed original, and improved the quality of the image for reproduction. Lynn produced a retablo ornament at a reduced wholesale price, as her personal contribution to Charlie. It is five inches tall.

Charlie Carrillo’s Retablo by Lynn Garlick

Susan’s Christmas Shop will sell these retablo ornaments for $12 each, and all profit will be donated directly to Charlie. These ornaments are already selling briskly in my shop, but you can now order them on my website or by phone: +1 505 983 2127.

Thank you for reading my appeal to help Charlie Carrillo. I wish you a beautiful spring, wherever you are in this wide world.

Your friend in Santa Fe,
Susan Weber

Hot Air Balloons And Book Signing

Hot Air Balloons Festival Albuquerque

October will soon be here. In Albuquerque that means the famous Hot Air Balloon Festival. Hundreds of colorful hot air balloons fill the sky at dawn, providing an amazing spectacle. This Sunday I’ll be in Albuquerque myself, and I invite you to join me at Bookworks at 3:00 PM. Bookworks is a popular local independent bookstore in the scenic north valley of Albuquerque at 4022 North Rio Grande Boulevard NW.

I will give a slide show and talk about my new book, Susan’s Christmas Shop. I will sign copies of all my books. I hope to see you there, as a friendly face in the audience. If you live too far away to be there, I’ll share with you, in this letter, a story I plan to tell Sunday, a story of how I got started with Christmas ornaments.

It was 1969. I was a young housewife with a toddler and a baby. We lived in low rent housing close to the University of New Mexico, where my husband was in graduate school. The apartments had a building where informal classes could be held. I heard that the YWCA was holding classes there, so I put my baby boy in a red wagon and held my toddler daughter’s hand as we walked to the center. A craft class was being offered, but the tuition was out of my reach. As I started to pull my red wagon back to my apartment, a woman from the YWCA said to me, “Wait. Would you be interested in this class?”

“Yes,” I said, “but I have no money.”

“If you have a few dollars to join the YWCA, I will pay your tuition,” she said.

I was amazed. “Why should you do this for me?” I asked.

“When I was young, someone helped me,” she said, “and I would like to pass that along.”

We had never met before that morning, and she had no way of knowing how this class would change my life. As soon as my hands touched the simple salt dough, I knew this was my medium. Within a month, I was selling my Christmas ornaments to a shop. Within a year I was accepted into a juried craft show. Soon I had eager collectors who bought everything I made.

Dough ornaments by Susan Topp Weber

I never saw the woman from the YWCA again, but because of her, I have an obligation to help younger artists. Susan’s Christmas Shop has given me a way to do this. This story and many, many more are in my new book, Susan’s Christmas Shop.

I sent my fond greetings to all of you, no matter where you are in this wide world. Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy the last flowers of the summer season and the changing leaves of autumn.

Your friend in Santa Fe,
Susan Weber