Spruce Tree House glows during the holiday luminaria festival at Mesa Verde National Park. The celebration this year will take place on December 14.

(Courtesy Cristy Brown)

As the winter light recedes from the afternoon sky, Mesa Verde National Park puts on a holiday light show unlike any other. The historic buildings and walkways glow by the light of luminarias, which are lanterns made by placing candles in paper bags, during the park's holiday open house.  

The event is a labor of love, says Cristy Brown of the National Park Service: in 2015 a crew of volunteers and park staff filled more than 4,000 paper bags with seven tons of sand, burning through 30 long-handled lighters. The festival this year is Dec. 14, and admission to the park is free after 4 pm. Brown spoke with Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel.

Luminarias light the roadway at sunset near Mesa Verde's headquarters during the holiday open house.

Courtesy Cristy Brown