With Christmas just around the corner, people all over the world celebrate the birth of Christ as per their traditions. Mexican Christmas traditions are very special and unique. Majority of people in Mexico are Roman Catholics and Christmas is therefore a religious holiday where the birth of Christ is celebrated in a religious manner. Mexican history of Christmas can be traced back to the 15th century, where we find the reference of Fray Pedro de Gante, a Franciscan missionary who educated the people about the teachings of Christianity. He worked as the herald of Christmas in Mexico. The Christmas celebrations begin on December 12 and the celebrations go on till January 6.
There are many popular legends and traditions that are associated with Christmas in Mexico. There is a famous legend that is associated with the tradition of offering Poinsettias to the Lord. The legend is about a young boy called Pablo who picked up branches from a weed growing on the roadside as he didn't have anything to offer to the Lord. On reaching the altar, he became the laughingstock for his tiny gift. But as he offered those branches, bright beautiful star-shaped petal-like leaves appeared on each branch! Some of the other traditions that Mexicans follow are very different and you will observe that the manner in which Christmas is celebrated is different from the traditions associated with Christmas around the world. For instance, in some parts of Mexico, children don't get gifts on December 25, it is only on January 6 that they are given presents.
Christmas Traditions in Mexico
The Christmas celebrations in Mexico start way before the actual Christmas. The whole country gets ready for their biggest festival, right from December 12. There are certain events that are celebrated which are given below.
Posadas is the first celebration. This celebration starts nine days before Christmas, i.e. from December 16. It begins with a procession wherein everyone carries a candle. The head of the procession carries a candle that is lit in a paper lamp shade, which is called little lantern or a Farolito. Four boys, who are of the same height, walk in the procession. They carry two small statues of St. Joseph. The people in the procession are divided into two groups; the innkeepers and the pilgrims. The pilgrims go from inn to inn asking for a shelter, till they find the Nativity scene or Nacimiento. The Nativity scene is set in a public place and each and every home. When the pilgrims reach the manger, a holy prayer is chanted by everyone. This celebration ends on the 24th, which is known as the Noche Buena or the 'Holy Night'. Another part of the Christmas traditions in Mexico is the pastorelas. Pastorelas are one form of entertainment, wherein the shepherds, present theatrical presentations.
After the prayers, there is a party for the children. Piñata, is colorfully decorated, bright hollow figure. This hollow figure is filled with candies and other goodies. The children are supposed to break the piñata, which is not so simple! Every child gets a chance to break the piñata, only when he is blindfolded! For the adults there is Ponche con Piquete, this is a hot beverage.
On the 'Holy Night', everyone gathers for midnight mass. After the mass there is a grand dinner, with friends and family. There is dinner for the orphans in the manger in the Nativity scene. In the past, Christmas gifts weren't distributed on the Christmas eve, but now as the times are changing, 'Santa Clos ' is seen giving out gifts.
Día de Reyes
This is the day when children receive gifts from the three kings or the Wise Men. This day is celebrated on the January 6. The kids place their shoes by the window and the Kings or the Magi keeps a gift in the shoe, just like Santa Claus! This is one of the oldest Christmas traditions in Mexico.
Día de la Candelaria
This day is celebrated on the 2nd of February, and is marked as the last day of Christmas celebrations. On this day, the Nativity scene is put away in a party given by the lucky person, who got the Baby Jesus, piece of bread during the Rosca de Reyes celebration. This person is also made the Godparent of Baby Jesus, and it is his/her responsibility to make a 'Ropon' which is the christening gown for Baby Jesus.
Traditions Related to Food
Bacalao a la vizcaina is one of the most important dishes of Mexican Christmas food. It is very colorful and is made of fresh salted cod, olives, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, capers and red bell peppers. You will be welcomed by this traditional dish during Christmas time in Mexico!
Rosca de Reyes is a special dish for children. This is nothing but sweet bread which is stuffed by many tasty ingredients and topped by a sweet glaze! You will also find figurines of baby Jesus Christ, on the loaf! Hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream and peppermint stick candy cane is for the cold Christmas nights.
Tamales are the treats given on Rosca de Reyes. Tamale is corn bread which is filled with meats, cooked in sauce and wrapped in corn husks. Piñata is also one of the important traditions related to food. Turkey, ham, oysters, fritters, are all a must for the traditional Mexican dinner!
Christmas is a very special time in Mexico, especially due to its religious importance. Though Mexican Christmas traditions and customs are slightly different from the traditions that are followed in other parts of the world, Mexicans have adapted some of the popular customs. Moreover, the spirit of festivity is just the same! After all, Christmas is all about merry-making, everywhere around the globe so, Feliz Navidad!