Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I have had a busy holiday season here in Mexico. Yesterday (Jan. 6) was the Dia de los Reyes, better known to us in the US as Epiphany and with that, we nearly reach the end of the festivities. The season won’t officially end until Feb. 2nd with Candlemas, but I present you with a few highlights thus far.
1. Las Posadas
Starting on December 16th and running until December 24th, Joseph and Mary’s quest for lodging is reenacted in towns and villages throughout Mexico. This certainly was the case for my neighborhood here in Mexico City, where each family in the neighborhood scheduled a night for the posada to be held in their home. Each home had a nativity scene and the hosts of the posada (Spanish for “inn”) act as the innkeepers. The neighborhood children carried images of Mary and Joseph from home to home singing and asking for lodging before finally arriving at the house with the scheduled posada. Once a prayer was said, the party began with tons of great foods, drinks, and several piñatas which were usually star-shaped and filled with candy, fruits, and other fun things for the kids.
2. Noche Buena
Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), rather than Christmas Day, is really the highpoint of the season in Mexico. It usually involves attending Misa de Gallo (rooster’s mass) at midnight before returning home to celebrate with dinner and drinks. My Mexican host family and I attended church much earlier in the evening and then returned home to eat our Christmas Eve meal (turkey with an adobo sauce, which was pretty amazing. One of the men in my house is a chef from the state of Oaxaca.) Christmas Day is then reserved as a day of rest.
3. Dia de Reyes
January 6th, as said before, is Dia de Reyes (literally Kings’ Day). This is Epiphany on the church calendar, the 12th day after Christmas, when the Magi arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus. This is the day that Mexican children typically receive presents. Santa is usually seen as an imported custom. In the days preceding Dia de Reyes, children write letters to the Magi requesting a gift that they would like and then the gifts appear on January 6th. It is also customary to eat Rosca de Reyes (I had plenty), which is a sweet wreath-shaped bread with candied fruit on top. Inside this bread is a figure of the baby Jesus. The person who finds the figurine is then expected to host the party and provide tamales for Dia de la Candelaria (Candlemas) which marks the presentation of Jesus at the temple. Fortunately for me since I have no idea how to make tamales, I was not the one to find the figure.
4. Christmas Parties Galore!
While this isn’t specifically Mexican, I certainly attended my fair share of non-posada Christmas parties, including our YAGM party, where I received a partly-done book of sudoku, a leftover can of cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving, and two bags of iced tea mix through our white elephant gift exchange.
The other major parties were our DDESER end-of-year party and the party of our parent organization Equidad de Género. At DDESER, we decorated the office with garland, lights, bouquets of condoms (both male and female), and of course a Christmas tree with inflated condoms for ornaments. Pretty standard stuff. We ate plenty of delicious Mexican food and raffled off gifts (I got a thermos) before the dance portion began.
The party at Equidad was slightly more upscale. This party featured roulette, a live jazz band, a four-course meal served by waiters in tuxedos, complementary wine and other liquors, and more presents. The gifts included Ipod touches, cameras, laptop computers, vacations, and large flat-screen televisions, among others (and yes those were all meant to be plural). Recall that I won a thermos.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you may have noticed that New Years is conspicuously missing. Clearly, this is not because it didn’t happen, but because I was having a pretty un-Mexican New Years on a beach in Oaxaca. However, for a run-down of what seems to have been a very fun holiday, check out my friend Lisa’s blog here.