Have spent Christmas in many places in this world; Germany, Korea, Vietnam, many locations in the US.
Mexico is different; it is still a very religious season here. Not quite the dizzying commercial whirlwind as in the US. There is gift giving and parties; some decorations usually of the Holy Family and now the people living close to the US or who have been to the US are adopting US style decorations for their houses including Christmas trees. Still the season is mostly a religious one.
The usual first celebration is on December 12th, the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is honored. The Virgin is a symbol that all of Mexico seems to accept as their own, her image is on everything; bags, buses, cars, houses and in shrines, in homes, businesses it seems her likeness is everywhere.
On or near the date of 12 December there will be found pilgrims making a pilgrimage to a church or shrine and these groups of pilgrims can get very large. Some walk, some run, some bicycle for miles forming a long line to the chosen destination.
Some people carry homemade banners and others carry elaborate ones while some others will carry her image to be blessed by the priest. Some pilgrims sing or pray as they move along others are in respectful silence.
When they arrive at their destination, a church or shrine, there is a mass and a blessing of the people. The site is bright with lights and candles and some people get very emotional.
This small town has its own event at the local church which isn’t old, as far as churches go in Mexico, which have churches going back to the Conquistadors. We do have a shrine near the lighthouse on its own hill, people use to venerate the Virgin.
One other custom of the season is the Posadas. While in the Yucatan I saw first hand a local Posada. It was several local children going together from house to house singing Christmas songs and carrying palm leaves. One child carried a small container and people would come out of their houses and drop a few coins in their little box or can after they had sung a few songs.
I scurried about finding coins and made sure they were Mexican Pesos and when they came to my house they looked a little puzzled as whether I knew what they were doing. When I came out with my sweater and scarf on and greeted them in Spanish they began to sing and smile.
When I dropped the coins in their little box they all looked in it and were smiling so I guess I did it right. In other parts of Mexico the Posada is more traditional and quite elaborate. A boy and a girl are selected to play Mary and Joseph and they dress in costumes and Mary rides a donkey led by Joseph from house to house looking for a place to stay for the night like in the bible, only they are followed by children and adults. Some singing goes on and eventually they reach the last house and are allowed in and there is a party with music and food that goes on for hours.
This little pueblo sometimes does this or a limited version of it but it is in the Barrios of the town. I sometimes wish they would come out to the Gringo homes but most are far out of town and that would be a problem for them to get to.
Soon in the stores and pastry shops, large rings made of bread like cake and dried fruits will be for sale. They are called Rosca de Reyes. I always buy one or two to share with friends and neighbors.
Tradition, I’m told, is that if you find a little plastic figure in your portion you are the lucky one that throws a party next year. I wonder if this is true or not? I don’t care, having a party is a good thing and finding a little plastic baby in your cake is a nice surprise.
The longer I live in Mexico the more I learn about the culture, traditions, history and language(s). I am endlessly fascinated with Mexico. The many Fiestas, national holidays and accompanying customs provide a living classroom to learn about Mexico and her people. Their patience and openness with me has provided a wonderful adventure and keeps me stimulated to learn more.
I hope your Christmas season is as charming as mine in this little pueblo on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, adios.