Winter is a stunningly beautiful and serene season in New Mexico. By late March, though, many of us residents ache for indications of spring—a crocus pushing its bright head through the snow, the swelling of buds on fruit trees. Well, anything but the spring wind, though even that heralds warmer days ahead.
For many centuries, the people of New Mexico have seen the spring equinox as a reason for celebrating rebirth and renewal. In our state’s far northwestern corner, Chaco Canyon, the center of Puebloan culture from AD 850 to 1250, signals the year’s equinoxes and solstices in monumental ways. The alignments of Chaco’s structures and the designs on their walls are famously attuned to the movements of the sun. Christianity, of course, has preserved the celebration by timing Easter to fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after the equinox.
New Mexico’s early Spanish settlers would have noted both the equinox and Easter. The equinox announced the promise of agricultural renaissance and preparations for a return to the fields. Devoutly Catholic parishioners celebrated the end of Lent, a time of solemn reflection and sacrifice, and of preparing to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Both observances are still the norm.
In New Mexico, Easter week is also a time of pilgrimage. The village of Chimayó, in particular, embraces thousands of the faithful, who walk to its Santuario. Tomé Hill, south of Albuquerque on the original Camino Real, serves a similar role as a Christian shrine. And, as in other states, sunrise services and Easter-egg hunts abound.
Even for those not making a pilgrimage, the week beckons many to enjoy an outdoor activity. Some years, this has been when my family says a fond goodbye to Taos’s sunny spring ski-and-snowboard season. At other times, we’ve enjoyed a picnic in Frijoles Canyon, at Bandelier National Monument, near Los Alamos, or simply hiked the hills behind our Tesuque home.
Whatever the beginning of spring means to you, a special breakfast with family or friends is a great way to kick off a weekend morning. This year, the equinox and Easter fall somewhat early, before the end of March. That timing cuts into the availability of New Mexico produce, but we can still take advantage of locally raised eggs, lamb, herbs, dried apricots and chile, and even wheat grown and milled in the state.