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Luminarias are a Southwestern Christmas tradition. Here's how to make the paper lanterns and display them in your yard.

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LAS CRUCES - Whether you're a New Mexico native or a transplant, you may have noticed holiday time in the Land of Enchantment blends traditions to create a unique experience. 

New Mexico, rich with Spanish and Mexican history, has helped shape and mold the holidays in our state we know today.

Here are some traditions that makes New Mexico holidays so special:

1. Champurrado 

While most Americans drink hot cocoa during the holidays, New Mexicans can't get enough of champurrado. Champurrado is a chocolate-based atole, a warm and thick Mexican beverage, prepared with either masa de maíz, masa harina or corn flour; piloncillo (unrefined sugar); water or milk; and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed, or vanilla. This holiday favorite beverage is usually served alongside tamales during Christmas dinner. In the mood to try it? Check out your favorite local Mexican restaurant. Most Mexican restaurants in Las Cruces offer the delicious treat. 

2. Tumbleweed snowmen 

For many across the country, Christmas means snow and building a snowman on your front lawn — but many New Mexicans know that only some regions in the state actually get to see snow. For this reason, New Mexicans get creative and build snowmen made from tumbleweeds. An infamous tumbleweed snowman made its return to Albuquerque this year and has been a staple in northern New Mexico since 1995, according to KOB. The snowman is 11 feet tall and can be seen from Interstate 40 near the University exit. 

3. Decorating cacti and palm trees 

Everybody loves Christmas trees, but a Christmas cactus and palm tree sounds a lot more interesting and cool. Cacti and palm trees are a widely popular plant and tree in New Mexico and Arizona and parts of Texas — which is why decorating them with lights makes it that much more fun and uniquely a southern thing. Who doesn't love a decorated cactus or palm tree?

4. Tamales, posole and biscochitos 

Food in New Mexico during the holidays are a true representation of how the state celebrates Christmas differently than everyone else. True New Mexicans know tamales are a holiday staple in the southwest at family gatherings as well as posole and biscochitos. The family table just isn't the same without these tasty, must have New Mexico treats. Posole, which literally translates to "hominy," is a traditional soup or stew made from hominy, with meat, and can be seasoned and garnished with shredded lettuce or cabbage, chile, onion, garlic, radishes, avocado, salsa or limes. The Mexican soup is craved by many families during the holidays. After you're done munching on some tamales and posole, try some biscochitos. Many argue there's nothing more New Mexican than biscochitos. Noted as the state's official cookie in 1989, biscochitos are a crisp lard- or butter-based cookie flavored with cinnamon and anise. These holiday favorite cookies are popular at most Mexican bakeries and many celebrations such as weddings, baptisms and quinceañeras. 

5. Luminarias or farolitos 

Depending on which part of New Mexico you're from, luminarias (southern New Mexico) or farolitos (northern New Mexico) light neighborhoods during the holidays. More commonly called luminarias, these little lanterns consist of a candle set in a small paper bag weighted with sand. Luminaria/farolito displays are common throughout New Mexico. San Juan College in Farmington, organizes a large annual farolito display, most recently consisting of around 30,000 farolitos displayed on campus. In Las Cruces, the 35th annual Noche de Luminarias event at New Mexico State University offered the community a chance to witness more than 7,250 luminarias illuminate the NMSU campus. 

6. Posadas 

Posadas are a Mexican tradition that has been celebrated for hundreds of years which tells the story of the nativity of Jesus. The celebration typically lasts for nine days (called the novena) during the Christmas season beginning Dec. 16 and ending on Christmas Eve. During posadas, two people dress up as Mary and Joseph in a reenactment of the anticipation of the birth of Jesus at the inn in Bethlehem surrounded by barn animals  and the three wise men. Posadas are usually performed at a church or even someone's home. After the posada, celebrants usually have a party to celebrate the birth of Jesus. 

Did we miss any New Mexico holiday traditions? Send suggestions to Jacqueline Devine, the trending and entertainment reporter at the Las Cruces Sun-News. She can be reached at 575-541-5476, JDevine@lcsun-news.com or @JackieIsDevine on Twitter.

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