In a Dec. 3, 1590, journal entry, Spanish explorer Gaspar Costaño de Sosa spoke about lighting small bonfires to help guide a scout back to camp during a dark winter night.
He called the small bonfires Luminarias, which is Spanish for lights. The Franciscan monk, Toribio de Benavente Motolinia, one of the original “12 apostles of Mexico,” wrote that so many luminaries were placed in front of churches and houses that the scene “resembles the starry skies.” Today we know them as the little gaily decorated paper bags that bring warmth and light to our holiday nights.
But these magical lights go by many names. Some call them “farolitos,” after the sacks of money burned by the legendary outlaw, “Dusky” Faro, who on Christmas eve, 1872, robbed Santa Fe’s First National Bank. Faro left fields of burning sacks of money out in the open, preferring to create something beautiful for the people on Christmas, rather than be caught with the evidence. Others call them “Posada vigil fires” or “linternitas,” since many times the lights show the way for those walking the posadas. The ones with electric lights inside are called “electrolitos.”
Whatever they are called, the beautiful custom of marking a path to the church, symbolically lighting the way for the Holy Family and welcoming the light of Christ into the world, is a family friendly custom. You are invited to participate this year by the Columbian Squires, the Youth Service Group affiliated with the Knights of Columbus. The Squires leader, Armando Mena, writes –“If you can draw, write, scoop sand, or turn on a tea light- YOU ARE OUR PERSON! Join us on Saturday, December 22nd at 10 AM in the Serra Gardens, San Luis Rey Parish. A project of the parish Squires and the 1087th Wonder of the World.”