Christmas à la Mexicana
Nine days of celebration in Mexico
Mary and Joseph searched for a room in an inn, so Jesus could be born in a safe place. Well, in the posadas, people do a representation of this. The posadas take place from 16 December to 24 December. People form some groups; one group joins in a certain gathering point, and then all together walk door to door while singing until they find an open room at the inn. The other three groups are at each door, and it is at the third one that they let the pilgrims in. Once there, all together celebrate with a party. They enjoy the typical Mexican food, hot drinks, and Christmas music. People end this beautiful celebration with the famous piñata.
Ya le diste una ya le diste dos, ya le diste tres y tu tiempo se acabó
This line is part of the song that people sing when playing with a piñata and it can be translated as: “You hit it once, you hit it twice, you hit it thrice, and your time is over”.
As we mentioned before, in the posadas, Mexican people celebrate with a piñata. However, what is it and what is its meaning?
A piñata is a container filled with treats and/or fruits. This container is decorated with paper of different colors. The game of the piñata consists of hitting it with a stick until it breaks so the participants can collect the candies. The piñata that is used on Christmas has the form of a star with seven spikes that represent the seven deadly sins. So breaking it means to end with those sins. While the stick used simulates the force with which evil is defeated. Finally, the treats and fruits falling represent the blessings that we receive from defeating evil.
Most people in Mexico are Christians, so the Christmas nativity scenes are very important. They are arranged on 16 December but with baby Jesus missing. On 25 December, his figure is placed inside the manger. People put a lot of effort on doing it. Some scenes are small but others are very impressive. There are even official contests organized by the Secretary of Culture. Fun facts: One of the largest nativity scenes is in Mexico City. It consists of 5,000 pieces and has 57 different scenes in an area of 20,000 square meters. The city of Monterrey held for 29 years the Guinness World Record for the largest nativity scene. Joseph has a height of 17 m while his cane is 18.15 m. Mary has a height of 10 m and baby Jesus is 3.25 m.
Food and not spicy food (desserts)
Let us start with the most known food from Mexico - the tamales. They are prepared with corn dough and filled with meat, potatoes, olives and jalapeño. Then, we have the bacalao that are dried salted codfish. The most traditional way to prepare it is the cod stewed with tomatoes, olives, potatoes and capers. A dish that cannot be missing is the pozole, a soup made with pork or chicken, white corn, oregano, cabbage and of course, chilepiquin.
The favorite desert of the Mexicans, we think is the buñuelo. This fried dough has sugar on it. It is made with flour, yeast, water, piloncillo, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla extract. You can imagine it as a fried tortilla cover in a piloncillo syrup. It is delicious!
The 24 of December is possibly my favorite day of the year. It is the only day my entire family makes the effort to gather and have a quality night. We spend the day at my grandma’s house, sometimes we break a piñata, play together outside, have tamales, buñuelos, marshmallows, hot chocolate, pozole, menudo, etc. Every year the food varies a bit, but has always the same feeling and taste of a warm and safe night. At the end, the Christmas gifts; with the kids and not-so-kids, it is always nice to see your family surprised with a present. And even though some family members are not here with us anymore, we always try to remember them with a toast and by having the best time possible.
We are not the most religious people in the world, so we do not always go to the church, but we surely enjoy the Christmas traditions and enjoy our time together.
I like to say that I have two Christmases because I celebrate that day with my mom’s and my dad's mothers. For both of my families, the celebration of Christmas starts on the 24 at 9 p.m. because at that time we go to the church. Then we visit my dad’s mother, where we have diner, usually tamales, champurrado and buñuelos. Then we hug each other when the clock almost strikes 12 a.m. Then we leave to visit my mom’s mother. As we mentioned earlier, in Mexico some people put the nativity scene, and my grandmother is one of them. So at 12 a.m., we gather in front of it to lay baby Jesus inside of the manger while we sing and pray. After that, we go inside and we open the Christmas presents. Finally, we go outside to hit the piñata and to sing karaoke or to dance. The 25 is a more relaxed day. We go to church, we eat together, and then we just sit outside and spend some quality time together.