farolitos vs. luminarias vs. luminaries

This controversy is ripe for discussion this time every year:  in New Mexico, we use candles set in sand in paper bags as Christmas decorations.  Are they farolitos or luminarias?  Even within the state, people can’t agree.  It seems like from Albuquerque south, we call them luminarias while north of here they call them farolitos (literally, “little fires”).  We’re of the luminaria persuasion.  After all, another tradition is a series of little bonfires along the road to “light the way for the Christ child.”  We think that those would be farolitos, right?

But you know what really annoys me?  The new Febreze flameless “luminaries.”  Aw, come on!  A “luminary” is a person, not a candle in a paper bag.  Life is hard enough already–every time I try to type “luminaria,” my spell checker automatically converts it to “luminary” and then I have to change it back again.  Then Febreze comes out with this new concept and can’t get the word right.

I looked it up in the Merriam Webster online dictionary:  “luminary:  a person of prominence or brilliant achievement.”  (Use in a sentence:  “The dinner for the mayor was attended by many local luminaries.”)

On the other hand, a luminaria is “a traditional Mexican Christmas lantern consisting of a candle set in sand inside a paper bag.”

But what’s really funny is that the Google ad just above the definition on both of these words was for “traditional luminaries.  Use at parties, weddings, holidays.  Wonderful on patios, RV’s, walkways.”  This was for www.FlicLuminaries.com. They didn’t get it right, either.

Whether one believes they’re called farolitos or luminarias, Febreze is putting a whole new spin on the deal.