The calming glow of farolitos lighting the way around Taos’ Historic District during the holiday season are complimented by the crackling warmth of numerous bonfires peppered throughout historic Bent Street and the John Dunn Shops, as the walk through a winter wonderland continues in Taos.
The 29th Bonfires on Bent Street will be held Saturday, Dec. 9, from 4-7 p.m. This annual event is always held as close to the winter solstice (Dec. 21 or 22) as possible — the shortest day and longest night of the year. Many cultures have long held a recognition of rebirth around this “midwinter” time involving holiday festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations. Along the pedestrian-only John Dunn House Shops and historic Bent Street, this renewal is symbolized by the farolitos and fires.
In that spirit, the 40 merchants of Bent Street and John Dunn Shops will keep the pathways snug with bonfires, free food and beverages. Enjoy entertainment by the Aztec Dancers, and sing along with Billy Archuleta and the Guadalupe Choir and the Taos Community Chorus. Japanese Taiko Drumming and Fire-Hoop Dances will add to the fun, along with a strolling Santa Claus. Your caroling group is invited and encouraged to stroll the streets or gather around a bonfire throughout the day and evening and join in leading songs for a sing-along.
Melding with the smell of burning piñon will be free posole at Mudd-N-Flodd, and tamales, chile and posole provided by Bent Street Café & Deli. Holiday cookies, hot cider and hot chocolate will be served at the junction of John Dunn Way and Bent Street. Most shops will have food and drinks inside, from hors d’oeuvres to cookies.
And while this event helps jump-start the gift-giving season in Taos — because a vibrant economy is important — Bonfires on Bent Street, however, isn’t just about the almighty dollar.
“Dunn has always been a gathering place,” John Dunn Shops owner and event organizer Polly Raye told The Taos News in 2015. “It’s special in Taos at Christmas. [Bonfires on Bent Street] brings people out of their houses and outsiders to town. It has a traditional regional look — it doesn’t look like Chicago.”
Initially, the event sprang up as a thanks to John Dunn Shops customers. Later, the Bent Street shops joined the party. Now Raye gets phone calls from people asking for the date of the event to plan a trip around it. Attendance has increased every year.
“I think it has a very special energy,” Raye added. “It started as a thanks to customers and it still is. But this is not to see how many dollars shops can make; it’s about a sense of community and bringing people together. And for centuries it is tradition to have a day of thanksgiving for harvest.”
And when you have a feast, people tend to linger. “It’s all about people hanging around and visiting,” Raye said.