Monday, December 20, 2010


   Christmas in Mexico is a mixture of festivity and reverence.  Beginning weeks before Christmas, puestos (market stalls) are set up in the town plazas.  These puestos offer crafts of every imaginable sort, as well as foods and other seasonal items like orchids and poinsettia.  Homes are decorated, and most people attend gatherings of friends and loved ones to celebrate the season.

   The main public celebration of Christmas in Mexico is a beautiful reenactment of events leading immediately to Christ's birth.  La Posada is a religious procession in which participants reenact the search for a room at an inn by Joseph and Mary before the birth of Christ by walking from house to house with figures or images of Joseph and Mary.  Family and friends determine who will be innkeepers and who will be pilgrims.  The pilgrims do the traveling from house to house, where the innkeepers repeatedly turn them away, until they reach the house that has set up the altar and nativity scene.  There they are welcomed.  Because the pilgrimage from Nazareth to Bethlehem took 9 days, the processions start 9 days prior to Christmas.

    On Christmas Eve night, there is a midnight mass service called " La Misa Del Gallo (Rooster's Mass), where the churchgoers sing lullabies to Jesus.
   Thought some families in Mexico celebrate the story of Santa Claus, it is not the predominant custom.  The red suit is echoed however, in the poinsettia flower, which has a brilliant red star shaped bloom.  The story of the origin of the poinsettia is a beautiful one (the story of the poinsettia is one of my early December blog posts).  It is told that a young boy named Pablo was on his way to see the nativity scenes at church, but had nothing to leave as a gift by the manger.  He picked plain green branches, and took them in, amid laughter and mocking of the other children.  However, when he placed the branches near the manger, they began to bloom bright red flowers on each branch.


    Despite less emphasis on Santa, Mexican kids are given presents on Christmas day.  They are blindfolded, and they each take a turn, trying to bust the clay decorated pinata that has been filled with small candies and prizes.  The children scramble to recover as much candy as they can retrieve once the pinata has been busted open.  Further, kids who have behaved themselves receive a gift from the Three Wise Men on January 6th.

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