Despite cutting the tree and stringing the Christmas lights outside, it’s been hard getting into the holiday spirit with the delayed snowfall.

This lifelong four-season gal relies on weather to mark the changing of the seasons and signal the coming of Christmas. I was wearing a T-shirt last week, it was so mild. To confuse my body’s inner calendar even more, I’m writing this from a 90-degree indoor pool environment during my children’s swim class. I’m still in a T-shirt.

If it weren’t for the amber glow of farolitos lining the rooftops or the mesmerizing display of color on the Plaza, I might not be able to pin down what month this is.

Nothing says Navidad or Christmas in Santa Fe like farolitos. Thousands of brown paper bags filled with an inch or so of sand and a small lighted candle in the bottom — as well as their electric counterparts — line streets, adobe walls and rooftops during the holiday season.

Without their hint, I might not have started shopping for friends and family. The constant headlines about supply chain issues also lit a spark to get started sooner. Perhaps winter is also trapped on one of those cargo ships off the shores of Los Angeles.

If you find yourself in a bind looking for that special something, consider local items that are already here to remove the worry about an unknown ship date. Because of the pandemic, many people have experienced difficulty, and sharing time together has been sporadic. Simpler gifts with a personal touch may go further than just giving for the sake of giving.

Here are some suggestions for making the season merry for those near and dear.

  • Even the simplest gifts seem extra special when presented in a beautiful way, so put some time into your presentation even if you’re just making up your own gift certificate for a lunch date.
  • Take a friend out or host a meal, coffee or wine date. The experience of spending time together face to face is rewarding and a welcome change in this age of text messaging and the pandemic pause.
  • Wine is a popular gift. Make it more personal by selecting a vintage from a region she has visited or from the year of a special occasion such as a wedding or birthday.
  • Photos are often piled deep in our smartphones and computers in lieu of the real thing. Print out a favorite photo and frame it, or create a photo book for someone you love to be displayed and enjoyed.
  • Set up a volunteer experience for you and your family. Your time and effort are a gift you give others, and the experience you share will be rewarding and set an example for the young ones in your life. Consider committing your time outside of the holidays to teach that generosity is a year-round mindset.
  • Make a donation to a charity or nonprofit that speaks to the recipient’s interests. Make note of it in your holiday card and present with a bow if giving in person.
  • Offer your services as a gift. For example, a massage therapist can offer a one-hour session, or a chef can offer a cooking lesson.
  • Make a playlist or mix tape of songs that have special meaning for you and a friend. Consider buying a piano-gram by recording artist and concert pianist David Troy Francis. You choose from a number of selections, and he records the performance and emails it to the recipient with a greeting that you’ve written:
  • Put pen to paper. Write a poem or find a quote describing a dear friend in your best hand.
  • Write a rave review of the service someone has provided you, and post on social media and send to the boss. In an era of complaints, compliments could lead to a raise or promotion.
  • Give a magazine subscription that covers a hobby or interest. They are often $10 to $24. Or consider a gift certificate to a local bookstore. Both encourage the reader to take time out every month.
  • A membership to a museum or gym provides a year’s worth of stimulation by getting people out of the house and engaging with the community.
  • Cook something. Bake cookies, make jam or a savory soup. Cooking for pleasure is a labor of love that’s most appreciated. Because it is consumable, it won’t clutter up the house.
  • Shop locally. Find something made by an area artisan or from a friend’s shop or gallery. What stays local grows local, so support your neighbors and community.
  • Never underestimate the power of your voice. A phone call, smile or pat on the back go a long way to providing a boost.

May the charm of Santa Fe and the glow of farolitos bring you warmth, peace and comfort this holiday.

Bizia Greene is an etiquette expert and owns the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Share your comments and conundrums at or 505-988-2070.

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