Christmas is truly a wonderful time of the year in México with a blend of long-established traditions and newer traditions, such as the Christmas tree which has soared in popularity in recent years.
Let’s look at some of the key Christmas events and traditions in México.
Las Posadas are a series of processions from December 16 to 24, where children go from one house to another singing traditional Christmas songs or villancicos. Posada means inn, and this tradition represents the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem. The Posadas end at a different house every night with a fiesta with food, drinks, piñatas, and fireworks.
Pastorelas are theatrical plays depicting the journey of the shepherds (los pastores) to see the newborn baby Jesus. Some of the plays can be funny, as the devil tries to tempt them and stop them along the way.
Mexican Christmas Food
Food and drink are always a very important part of Mexican holidays and fiestas, and Christmas is certainly no exception. We’ve mentioned pozole in a previous blog – a traditional type of soup or stew – but roast turkey, roast pork, tamales, buñuelos (a sort of doughnut), romeritos (a green vegetable cooked in mole sauce and served with shrimp and potatoes), Ensalada Nochebuena (Christmas Eve salad) and bacalao (cod) are also traditional dishes served at Christmas. A traditional hot drink would be Ponche Navideño (Christmas Punch) made from fresh and dried fruit, sugar and spices.
Meaning Good Night, Noche Buena is celebrated on Christmas Eve. The last Posada occurs on this day, and families get together to enjoy the main Christmas meal. Many families will attend the midnight mass or Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Roosters). Children can get some gifts on Christmas Eve, but they are traditionally given on the day of the Three Kings, el Día de Los Reyes (see below).
Poinsettias decorate many homes and public places and are called Flores de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve flowers).
Although Christmas trees have become more popular in recent years, the most important decoration remains the Nacimiento, or Nativity Scene. These elaborate scenes are often quite large and sometimes even take up a whole room in a house. Many town centres are also known for their Nacimientos. Baby Jesus is usually added to the Nacimiento on Christmas Eve, and the Three Kings at Epiphany.
For the Posadas, the outside of houses is decorated with paper lanterns, evergreens, and moss.
Día de Los Reyes
On January 6th, the Día de Los Reyes – also known as Epiphany or the Day of the Three Kings – symbolizes the Three Wise Men visiting the baby Jesus and bringing gifts. For this reason, it has been customary to give gifts on this day.
A special wreath-shaped sweet bread called Rosca de Reyes is baked in which a baby Jesus figurine is hidden. Whoever finds the figurine will have to host a feast on the Día de La Candelaria (Candlemas Day) on February 2 which marks the official end of the Christmas season in México.
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