An Old Fashioned Holiday

Jenny's View

Dear Friends,

Our many guests who plan their visits around Santa Fe’s unique holiday traditions make this our second most popular time of year. From what people tell me, La Fonda has always gone “all out” at the holidays, starting with elaborate rooftop displays commissioned from professional artists in the 1940s and ’50s.

Most folks recognize our life-size wooden Nativity scene that was set up on the corner roof facing the Plaza. When Sam and Ethel Ballen bought the hotel in 1968, Sam found these figures stored in a closet, and decided to display them on the roof and have become such a part of Plaza holiday tradition, that we have continued to display them, year after year.

Imagine how the wooden figures suffered after a half century exposed to the snow and dirt! We knew they deserved better, so we just had them extensively (and expensively) restored. For this year, at least, we’re keeping Mary, Joseph, a wise man, donkey, sheep, and the baby Jesus (who sparked a mad scramble by suddenly going missing for a short while) indoors in our lobby, where everyone can see them at their best.

One of our most popular holiday traditions used to be the giant ice sculptures carved on the plaza the Friday before Christmas. Using 10 tons of ice donated by the city, our master carver Gil Mesa and his staff would wield power tools and pickaxes, sculpting until the holiday-themed work was complete. City budget cuts have whacked away at the donation, sadly, but La Fonda still continues this fabulous tradition with Mesa’s sculptural centerpieces for the holiday buffets. But La Fonda—and Santa Fe—remain the best place to enjoy an old-fashioned holiday, from our elaborate shop windows and a gingerbread replica of our hotel in the lobby to the unique gifts available in our Gift Shop. No matter what you celebrate this time of year, Santa Fe embraces it all.

Happy holidays,

Jenny Kimball

Recipe For Adventure

With the holidays approaching, childhood memories of the family gatherings around the dinner table come to mind. This Pork Posole recipe is a tradition for many in New Mexico for the holiday season and the colder weather. Chef Lane Warner has shared his recipe with us so that you too, can carry on this tradition or perhaps even start one of your own. And don't forget, for those that would like to go out for a lovely Christmas Day buffet, join us at La Fonda. Call soon to reserve your table as we book up early. 505-995-2334. 

Holiday Pork Posole - Serves 8-10


1# Posole (Hominy)

1# Diced pork shoulder

1ea Smoked ham hock (small)

4oz Onion, diced

2ea Garlic cloves, minced

1/2C Red chile powder (hot or mild)

1t Cumin

1gal Pork stock (pork base mixed with water will work fine)

To Taste - Salt and white pepper

Garnishes optional: Fresh lime, radish slices, shredded lettuce, avocado, fresh cilantro, onion


1) Place all ingredients in a pot, bring to boil and simmer until the hominy in tender.

2) Season with salt and pepper if needed.

3) Garnish as desired

4)  ENJOY!!!!

Live at La Fonda

Vigil was lucky to find his calling in life at age 11, and learned from the masters, he says—Eric Clapton and The Beatles. He never learned to read music, but played by copying, borrowing, and then reinterpreting, as folk musicians have always done. “Songwriters are really just thieves,” he laughs. “We steal from here and there and put it together with our own glue. I’ve known both real theorists and the ones who learn on their own. A little of both is really magical.”

A listen to the clips on his website should spark some of that magic, theory or no. Vigil has recorded three albums of his original songs, and is at work on a fourth. For nearly 25 years he has played professionally around Northern New Mexico, interspersing his originals with hundreds of hit songs spanning “1950s country to ’60s rock, ’70s singer-songwriter, and ’80s one-hit wonders,” as he puts it. “I do some Spanish, too, and it’s always been just me.”

Why not a band? He doesn’t object to playing ensemble, Vigil says; he’s just never known many other musicians. “For years no one even knew I played, because I mostly play at home.” Plus, playing in bands means staying up late, he sighs. You can catch Gary Vigil serenading fellow early-nighters on Dec. 20 in our lobby bar. 

It's a Good Time to...

The Lensic will be brimming with cheer this month, as Santa Fe’s premier arts venue hosts back-to-back holiday concerts, starting with a rousing New Mexico Mariachi Christmas (Dec. 11). The symphony holds its annual Christmas Treasures concert, with guest conductor David Felberg (Dec. 13), followed by the Santa Fe Concert Band’s free holiday concert for the public (Dec. 14). Aspen Santa Fe Ballet presents The Nutcracker in four shows (Dec. 19-20), and popular pianists Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Roe play two Christmas Eve concerts. A short walk away, the Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble performs the Songs of Joy and Remembrance choral concert at Loretto Chapel (Dec. 11).

Christmas at the Palace is the moment to enjoy cider and biscochitos with Santa Claus at the Palace of the Governors (Dec. 11). Two nights later, the Plaza is the setting for the truly New Mexican Las Posadas, a re-enactment of the Holy Family’s search for an inn (Dec. 13). On Christmas Eve, it’s worth the stroll a few blocks north to see the farolitos lining Canyon Drive, stopping into the art galleries for refreshments.

For more offbeat holiday fare, join Joe West, “poet laureate of the trailerpark,” who brings his New Mexico Xmas Spectacular with Earl Poole Ball to the Scottish Rite Center (Dec. 18) and also to Cowgirl BBQ (Dec. 31). Even more offbeat, the Jewel Box Cabaret holiday show promises a gender-bending Las Vegas revue, Santa Fe style (Dec. 5).

And don’t forget to book your Christmas Day buffet at La Fonda soon. This beautiful, festive holiday buffet has everything from appetizers to desserts and is bound to please everyone’s palate. Call soon to reserve your table as we book up early. 505-995-2334. 

La Fonda Gift Shop

Manager Sophie Dant seeks out handmade items from Southwest artisans, and commissions them exclusively for the Gift Shop, affordably priced and easy to tuck into a suitcase. Look closely and you will find miniature oil paintings, photographs, hand-thrown ceramic tableware, textiles, note cards, La Fonda logo gear, and a carefully curated selection of New Mexico authors and stories, including children’s books and cookbooks.

One perennially popular item is reproductions of the whimsical hand-painted windowpanes that surround La Plazuela. Ernest Martinez, who worked at the hotel for six decades, eventually painted motifs in every room, hallway, and even the parking garage. His iconic windowpanes remain an instantly recognizable symbol of La Fonda’s unique artisanal style. For 2016, the Gift Shop is offering a hand-painted windowpane ornament in a hand-stamped tinwork frame—the perfect way to represent the Land of Enchantment on your Christmas tree. It makes a one-of-a-kind hostess gift that is sure to become a collectible. Don’t worry if you’re tempted to buy a dozen—the Gift Shop at La Fonda ships anywhere in the world.   

Keep your eye out for some exciting news in next month’s newsletter about our new retail store that will be opening in January of 2016. The current La Fonda newsstand and gift shop will be moving to a newly enlarged retail shop within the hotel and will transition to a blend of traveler essentials and lifestyle collections that provide our La Fonda guests a way to take the heritage experience of the hotel home with them.  


Performance Santa Fe opens the new year with two rousing New Year’s Eve concerts at the Lensic with pianist Joyce Yang. The Santa Fe Symphony offers a concert of Bizet, Bach and Shostakovich (Jan. 17), and Santa Fe Pro Musica’s annual Classical Weekend features virtuoso pianist Per Tengstrand (Jan. 23-24), with an Artist Dinner after the Sunday concert.

Two pioneering musical Daves—Bromberg and Lindley—come together for one evening at the Lensic (Dec. 6), followed by the harmonic duo Milk Carton Kids (Dec. 8) and ’80s band Big Head Todd & The Monsters with special guest Mike Doughty (Jan. 26). Join the San Diego tribute band Cash’d Out to pay tribute to the Man in Black, at the Skylight (Jan. 22).

Elsewhere in music, acoustic “fingerstyle” guitarist Shaun Hopper plays a concert at Eldorado Hotel in a fundraiser for the Spanish Colonial Arts Society (Jan. 23), and Canadian Brass brings its renowned musicianship to the Cathedral Basilica, showcasing genres from Baroque to Dixieland (Jan. 26).

Country music fans may want to drive out to Buffalo Thunder Resort for Nash Bash (Dec. 5) or Christmas with Clint Black (Dec. 11).

At the Museums

The New Mexico Museum of Art hosts its annual holiday open house with puppet plays, photos with Santa, and other activities (Dec. 20), while the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum invites you to drop in and create personalized holiday crafts (Dec. 29).

Also at the O’Keeffe will be conversations on formal innovation in the sculpture of Jeff Koons, Katharina Fritsch, and Charles Ray (Dec. 1), and on the timeless appeal of adobe (Dec. 7), as well as a seminar on the history of collecting (Dec. 17). The Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts will have a book signing with Susan Topp Weber, author of Nativities of the American Southwest (Dec. 4). At the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, a Midwestern artist will discuss the disappearing Algonquin art of birch bark biting and Quill Medallions, followed by a short workshop in which participants can try the embroidery themselves, using tools on a piece of birch bark (Dec. 12)

Film and Performance

One of the most intriguing events coming up for fans of contemporary art is the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts’ Acting Out Symposium (Dec. 3-4), with a one-night performance by Native performance artists James Luna and Rebecca Belmore with filmmaker Guillermo Gomez-Peña, followed by a discussion led by art critic Lucy Lippard (Dec. 4). Another talented trio takes the stage (local artists this time), when former United States CIA operations officer performs with Lensic executive director Robert Martin and film critic Jonathan Richards in a light-hearted theatrical reading that imagines a meeting between Mark Twain and Shakespeare (Jan. 31).

Meanwhile, Met Live in HD at the Lensic presents two shows each of Bizet’s Les Pecheurs de Perles (Jan. 16), and Puccini’s Turandot (Jan. 30), with Swedish soprano Nina Stemme. The National Theatre Live in HD will screen Jane Eyre (Dec. 10).

Don’t forget the 15th annual Santa Fe Film Festival at venues around the city (Dec. 2-6). And a free family opera, The Pirates of Penzance, will be performed at the Scottish Rite Center (Jan. 8-10).


The Lannan Foundation’s popular Cultural Freedom speaker series presents author and Palestine expert Richard Falk in conversation with journalist Ali Abunimah (Dec. 2), followed by #BlackLivesMatter author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor with author Donna Murch (Jan. 20). Also at the Lensic, U.S. Poet Laureate and performance artist Juan Felipe Herrera will read from and discuss his work.

La Fonda and Santa Fe In the News

NM hospitality industry honors its best during “Top HAT” gala. La Fonda on the Plaza and TOURISM Santa Fe were among the big winners at the inaugural Top HAT (Hospitality and Tourism) Awards Gala put on by the New Mexico Hospitality Association. READ MORE

Three Days in Santa Fe: Santa Fe's focal point is the plaza. Narrow roads lined with 17th-century adobe buildings filled with modern and classical art galleries lead into, and out of, the square. Clothing, leatherwork and jewelry also is plentiful. There's almost too much to look at. Spend the day window shopping or collecting one-of-a-kind items to decorate your home. READ MORE 

First Timers Guide to Santa Fe: The most astonishing aspect of our drive was the ever-changing landscape—from mountain to desert to plains with outcroppings of red bluffs. READ MORE

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