Why Christmas in Raton is the Best

Article & Pictures by Patricia Duran


Christmas is known to be the most wonderful time of the year for several reasons—food, festive decorations, and all of the gifts. And honestly, it is that time of year I desperately need new socks.


However, I will put up a fight with anyone whom believes that celebrating Christmas in anyplace other than New Mexico, especially Raton, is best. How can you beat the aroma of wood burning stoves, roasted pinion, and fresh tamales for Christmas? Go ahead, fight me.

Here are five reasons why Christmas in Raton is the best!


1. The City of Bethlehem

Almost as traditional as the Christmas tree, is piling into the car one evening and driving up

Apache Avenue to The City of Bethlehem display in Raton. The entire route going to the display is decorated with lit popular cartoon cutouts and of course Christmas lights.

To clarify, the City of Bethlehem isn’t the actual city of Bethlehem. When I was a kid, I used to say, “Raton is so lucky to have Jesus born here at the city of Bethlehem.” I truly did believe Jesus lived in Raton. News flash—he did not.


The City of Bethlehem is a display that is set up yearly at Climax Canyon telling the story of the Nativity and Jesus’s life. The lighted nativity has been around since the mid-forty’s, so my grandma’s grandma and your grandma’s grandma know all about it.

If you haven’t noticed, I don’t think any other town in the United States has cartoon characters decorating the city’s parks and roads or has a large enough Nativity display to drive through.


2. Winter Wonderland

Fairly recently, the Winter Wonderland display was just reinstated back into Raton’s long-line of various traditions. The Winter Wonderland display is the brainchild of Virgil Buscarini, a California native and now Ratonian.

The display is a small-scale replica of Raton’s current businesses with an animated Santa Claus flying across the sky with his reindeer, a choo choo train, and drivable automobiles. I say drivable for the common Polly Pocket.


I remember viewing Mr. Buscarini’s display as child and being absolutely amazed to walk into the building to see snow coming down from the ceiling. Said snow was actually small pieces of plastic, but it was incredibly magical.


Buscarini donated his display to the Raton MainStreet organization for preservation and it is now set up at 145 S. 1st St.


3. “A Christmas Carol” Performance


The best way to describe the production is through the quote of a little six-year-old. “They had a giant devil ghost that was ten-feet tall and had twenty-feet arms. There were also people speaking England.”


Also, what is neat, is the cast is made up entirely of community members from multiple generations.


Pro Tip: Always try to get your tickets early because the best seats in the house pack out quickly. Keep an eye on the Shuler's FB Page for updates.


4. Snowy Skylines and Urban Landscapes

Winters in Raton are the best because snow is always eminent on Christmas Eve. Praying for a white Christmas? No problem, Raton probably has snow on the ground.


As much as I love New Mexican Christmas’s, I believe that Raton’s Christmas is far superior for a few reasons. For one, Raton is in a small valley surrounded by a gorgeous skyline of mountains, mesas, and volcanos. When snow falls, we all become a part of Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or we all become a part of winter portrait of pine trees and icicles.


In addition, Downtown Raton is picture worthy for anyone wanting a nostalgic and urban Instagram post. Don’t believe me? Everyone takes engagement photos on the stairs between the Shuler Theater and the Isabell Castillo building.


5. Red and Green Chile Galore

Very rarely have I been to someone’s holiday party and there isn’t chile waiting to be devoured. If so, they definitely grew up in another state. That is how we can tell.

Whether it is posole, tamales, stuffed sopapillas, or just gravy, Christmas isn’t here unless we have chile when it’s chilly in Raton. Uncoincidentally, we say we want “Christmas” on our burritos when we can’t decide on which chile to have—red or green? Neither one or the other. Christmas.


My all-time favorite and best part about being from Raton is knowing my dad and my uncle will have some red and green chile jerky waiting for me under the Christmas tree. Yes, you read right. Homemade jerky is waiting for me under the Christmas tree. Deer, elk, and antelope, oh my!

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