Luminarias light up San Juan College campus during annual display

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The appearance of San Juan College was transformed on the evening of Dec. 4 when thousands of luminarias illuminated sidewalks, courtyards, rooftops and parking lots.

This was the 43rd year the luminaria display decorated the campus. It was viewable by walking or by driving through campus.

Ty Begay, a student at San Juan College High School, double checked luminarias near the Learning Commons Plaza.

"It's a way for us to interact with the community," Begay said about helping at the event. He added that the high school offers volunteer programs for students.

Karina Todechine lights a candle on Dec. 4 at the San Juan College luminaria display in Farmington.

While this was his first time helping, he has seen the display before with family members as part of their Christmas tradition.

"It's something for us to do and to look at," Begay said before moving to another section to check on more luminarias.

As dusk fell, volunteers continued to inspect paper bags and relight candles if needed.

Children hold hands during the San Juan College luminaria display on Dec. 4 in Farmington.

According to the college, the Student Engagement and Campus Life coordinates the event with help from the college's physical plant, students, staff and volunteers from the community.

Days leading up to the display, volunteers help fill paper bags with sand and set up starts a day before. The lighting of candles starts about two hours before the display opens to the public.

In the parking lot near the college's clock tower, Karina Todechine carried a box of candles and two lighters and walked row by row inspecting candles.

She said that the display alters the appearance of the campus.

An attendee at the San Juan College luminaria display takes a photo before walking into the Learning Commons Plaza on Dec. 4 in Farmington.

"I feel like it's very New Mexican, so it has that cultural factor and ties in with the rest of the state. … It's massive. When you come out, it's eye-catching," Todechine said.

People enjoyed the arrangement of luminarias by San Juan College High School in the Learning Commons Plaza.

Children treated the design like a maze, moving between the paper bags before pausing for photos snapped by parents.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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