Desert Botanical Garden

One of our earliest childhood memories of Christmas in Phoenix involves a very big saguaro cactus that used to reside near the intersection of Invergordon and McDonald in Paradise Valley. We called it "the cactus with the two crossed fingers," and every holiday season, someone decorated it with a red ribbon. Or maybe it was a Santa hat.

Anyway, it made us feel really cheery, and in lieu of ice rinks or tree lightings at Rockefeller Center, seeing that cactus marked, for us, the beginning of the holidays.

The cactus died years ago, but one Valley Christmas tradition has flourished -- and it's another one that involves desert foliage, and a lot of it. Las Noches de las Luminarias offers a walk in a winter wonderland, Phoenix-style. Thousands of hand-lighted luminarias line the paths of the garden, making the desert plants glow. You'll glow, too, after a glass of wine or cider and the sounds of carolers and other musicians performing along the paths. Arcadia Farms caters dinner, and the gift shop always offers up super holiday gift ideas.

We miss "the cactus with the two crossed fingers," but we're keeping our fingers crossed that Las Noches de las Luminarias is a Valley tradition for years to come.

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