Mexico is mostly a Catholic country, so Christmas starts on December 12th, when Mexicans celebrate the first apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Christmas celebrations in Mexico end on January 6th with the celebration of the Epiphany.
It is funny when I tell this to my students, since children in México receive presents on both Christmas and on January 6th; you can always hear the “no fair” voiced amongst them.
A unique celebration in Mexico during this time it’s called “Las Posadas”. Posada means “Inn” in English, and it’s when people recreate the time when Mary and Joseph were looking for a place to stay and spend the night. Mary and Joseph, characterized by the guests (usually neighbors, friends and family), sing verses outside asking the host family to let them in, and the host family answers from inside the house telling them “there’s no place for them”. The nightly routine ends when the home owner recognizes who is asking posada and they let them in. After that hey proceed to pray, eat, and break a piñata.
Las Posadas last 9 days with different families taking turns to host, and culminate on December 24th with a midnight mass called “Misa de Gallo”, which means in English “The rooster’s mass”, because it ends past midnight. Following the mass, people gather in the host’s house to place baby Jesus on his manger with prayers and songs, before enjoying delicious food and the company of friends. Then everybody goes to their homes to spend the 25th resting.
The piñata used in Las Posadas has a religious meaning that I personally find very special. It’s a Piñata with 7 cones, each one representing a capital sin named in the Catholic tradition. The Piñata represents the world and it’s covered with colorful and beautiful paper, which depicts the temptations always dressed as something beautiful to catch our eye. The person who’s trying to break it is blindfolded, which means that our faith is blind, and uses a stick to hit it, which represents our strength, self-control and the willingness to end the evil in the world. When the piñata is broken, many goodies fall from it, which represent the awards we receive for fighting evil and our willingness to do what is right.
On January 6th, children wait for the coming of the three wise men who visited Jesus. The night before, they put their shoes at the door to receive the presents brought for them. Family and friends then gather to cut and eat the “Rosca de Reyes”, which is bread shaped as a big bagel decorated with dry fruit and sugar. Inside one may find little plastic kid figurines. The figurines represent the children who were hid when Herod ordered to kill them looking for baby Jesus. People who find a figurine in their piece of bread (usually three or four through the entire Rosca), make a team to hold a party on February 2nd to celebrate “La Candelaria” (the day of light), when Jesus was presented in the temple.
They order tamales (made of corn-based dough (or maize), and can be filled with beef, chicken, pork, chili, cheese, beans or vegetables; and champurrado (a drink made with flour, cinnamon and milk). Once again, this is celebrated in the company of loved ones, dear friends and neighbors.
Christmas time in Mexico it’s so awesome!
By: Laura Magdaleno-Herrera, LAL Teacher