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luminaria • \loo-muh-NAIR-ee-uh\ • noun
: a traditional Mexican Christmas lantern originally consisting of a candle set in sand inside a paper bag
Luminarias lined the streets throughout the neighborhood for the annual Christmas Stroll.
“The luminaria … will light up the night around Olean on Dec. 21, the longest night of the year, in honor of the homeless.” — Kate Day Sager, Olean (New York) Times Herald, November 17, 2014
Did you know?
Luminaria is a fairly recent addition to English; the earliest known use in our language dates from 1949, about the time that the old Mexican Christmas custom was gaining popularity among Anglo-Americans. In some parts of the U.S., particularly New Mexico, these festive lanterns are also called farolitos, which means “little lanterns” in Spanish. We borrowed luminaria from Spanish, but the word has been around with exactly the same spelling since the days of Late Latin. The term ultimately traces to the classical Latin luminare, meaning “window,” and to lumen, meaning “light.” It is related to other light-bearing words such as luminary, illuminate, and phillumenist (a fancy name for someone who collects matchbooks).
All My Best,
Jill M Roberts