In Santa Fe, ‘Christmas’ means red and green chiles

The local term for a combo of fresh and dried hot stuff on a dish
Ceramic chiles at a stall in Santa Fe, New Mexico. All photos: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Santa Fe, capital of America’s 47th state New Mexico, is the “chile capital of the world”. The state license plate for vehicles proclaims it as such. Ristras, or strings of chile, hang on patios, in doorways and anywhere else they might conceivably have a place.

For those who want something more permanent (and less messy) than dried chiles, ceramic ones are available by the Scoville load, the Scoville scale being a measurement of the heat and pungency of chili peppers.

And chiles have affected the New Mexico idiom with a combo of green and red chile on a dish – which is to say both the fresh and dried varieties – bearing the evocative name “Christmas”.

Note the ‘Christmas’ bags of chiles (extreme right)

A restria

Even a tile with a house number in Santa Fe has the ubiquitous string of red chiles

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac

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