Making Lumenarias

Making Lumenarias

Growing up in Texas, one of our traditions on Christmas Eve was to line the sidewalk leading up to our house with lumenarias. When we moved to California, the tradition came with us – though it was our extra-long driveway line with them instead of the sidewalk.

Traditionally lumenarias are very simple – a candle set in a paper bag filled with sand. They are thought to have been a version of what Spanish merchants saw when they visited China, and the Spanish origin is why they are found primarily in the traditions of the American Southwest.

While we originally used regular tea lights in our version, I’ve since switched to using LED tea light candles. I remember the bags blowing over a time or two and prefer not to have to worry about the fire hazard.

Making lumenarias is easy. You will need:

  • paper lunch bags (number depends on area being covered, but one per every 1-2 feet)
  • sand or cat litter (to weigh down the paper bags)
  • LED tealights

Making Luminarias | Modern Home EconomicsFold down the top of each paper bag 2-3 times. Fill with a 1 to 2 inch layer of sand or cat litter. Place tea light inside.

If you choose to use a regular tea light, it’s easier to light the candle with a long match or lighter after you’ve placed it in the bag. (Just try not to catch the bag on fire while doing so.)

Some ideas on where to place lumenarias:

  • driveway
  • sidewalk
  • fence
  • around the edge of your yard or lawn
  • roof line
  • porch and/or porch steps

You can also arrange them in rows or create a design as part of a display.

Making Luminarias | Modern Home Economics


Sewist, knitter, reader, dancer. Wife. Lover of things vintage and retro.