12-22-2012   Leave a comment

Three shopping days left.  Are you finished with your preparations yet? This posting was my valiant attempt to find a culture that celebrates Christmas in the most traditional fashion. That being said you should also be aware that my better-half was born Ohhhh so may years ago in Corpus Christy, TX and is extremely proud of her Texas upbringing.  Corpus Christi is just a stones throw from Mexico so the Mexican influences are deeply ingrained in her. One of the things I initially loved about her was her passion for all things Mexican since I love hot food and many of their traditions.  Since we’ve been together I’ve eaten more Mexican food than most actual Mexicans.  Years ago my favorite snack was potato chips but that has long since changed.   It’s now tortilla chips covered in cheese and slices of jalapenos. My repertoire of Mexican dishes has been greatly expanded and there are times when I’m begging for a traditional American home cooked meal.

I’ve always been a huge fan of hot peppers and extra super hot salsa but she’s taken me to whole new level.  I go for weeks at a time where my mouth never stops burning and I won’t even mention the other things that burn regularly as well.  I hear reports that people who regularly eat hot and spicy food are healthier and have less of a chance of heart attack.  That might be BS but if it’s true I should live to be two hundred.

It’s time for a visit to Mexico and a look at their Christmas traditions. The Mexican people seem to have a rich religious tradition for their Christmas celebrations which is something that been lost in many parts of this country. The Nine Days of Posadas is a perfect example.

The celebrations begin nine days before Christmas and include a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. Neighborhood families take turns hosting a night at their home. At each home, visitors will chant asking for lodging as they carry an image of Mary and Joseph with candles. After three such stops, a family will be let in to join that household in saying the Rosary, singing holiday songs, and a nightly party for the children complete with a piñata that will be filled with fruit and other treats. Nine days of visiting and fun especially for the kids.

Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) most families attend a midnight mass, followed by a dinner at home which makes for a very late meal. They then place an image of the baby Jesus into the Nativity.

In most Mexican families, Christmas itself is celebrated not with gifts as in other cultures. Instead, Christmas in Mexico is more about being with family and eating, eating, eating, than with gift giving.

Gifts are exchanged in Mexico on January 6th, which is called Día de los reyes, or Kings’ Day. And they’re delivered by none other than the Three Wise Men themselves.  Children place their shoes near a window so the Magi can leave a gift and many children actually receive new shoes. Some Mexican families also have a Christmas tree but that is an individual families preference.

The Poinsettia is a common Christmas decoration. This beautiful plant is native to Mexico and unlike in most of the world, in Mexico the poinsettia is not simply decorative, it has been used for thousands of years in Mexican folk remedies.

Many Mexican families will have an egg bread wreath, called a rosca de reyes. Usually, this bread wreath also features a small, baked-in representation of the Baby Jesus. This wreath is also then used in the celebration of Candlemas on February 2nd and whoever gets the piece of bread bearing the image of Baby Jesus must care for it the whole year until the next Christmas celebration.

On February 2nd the family puts the Nativity scene carefully back into its holding and then enjoys a meal of tamales which marks the official end of the Nativity season.

All in all I think the Mexican approach to Christmas is rich and meaningful and something we can all learn from. I understand that the food is to die for and includes such traditional dishes as Mexican Spiked Cider served with tamales on the side.  It is sometimes called "Ponche con Piquete" (punch with sting), which can be as simple as a big simmering pot of cider to which rum and spices are added.

My other favorite would be Sweet Rice Pudding (Arroz con Leche).  It’s simple to make and very, very tasty.

There you have it.  An old style Christmas approach with a large religious component.  While I’m not all that religious myself their approach takes me back to my early years when my family’s approach to Christmas was of a similar nature.

Maybe next year we can take some of the Mexican traditions and mix them with our own.  We’ve already collected a number of strings of red chili pepper Christmas lights.  It could get interesting and I’m sure I’ll let you know how it goes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: