Mexican Christmas Traditions
Mexican Christmas traditions are largely based on the religious aspect of the celebration of the birth of Christ. There are very special traditions surrounding this festival in Mexico, and these festivities last throughout the month of December sometimes even extending to February. Many of the Christmas traditions are based on the form of Roman Catholicism that is practiced in the country. Like the Christmas celebrations in other parts of the world, in Mexico as well it is the time to be together with the family and enjoy the festivities.
Mexicans share many of their Christmas traditions with the Spanish. The weather around Christmas in Mexico is mild and families go out together to shop for Christmas gifts, decorations and food from the market. They decorate their homes with lights and other decorative, attend special church prayers, sing carols, eat special home cooked dinner and exchange gifts with family and friends. In Mexico children receive gifts on the 6th of January, instead of Christmas Day. This is in keeping with the tradition of the three wise men bringing gifts for Baby Jesus.
Christmas celebrations in Mexico begin from the 16th of December with La Posada. Strictly a Mexican tradition, La Posada is a religious procession in which participants carry images of Jesus and Mary and go from house to house. After dark, every night during Posada, two children lead the procession where the images are placed on a pine decorated platform. Other participants carry long slender lighted candles and sing songs as they approach the houses. The idea is to awaken the inhabitants of the house and ask lodging for Mary. At first the house inhabitants failing to identity the group refuse them entry, but on realizing who they are, the doors are thrown open and the guests are welcomed with song and prayers.
While Christmas trees are decorated and put up by many Mexican families, reenacting the nativity scene known as nacimientos is more popular. Elaborate nativity scenes are recanted in several houses with the figures of Baby Jesus, Joseph and Mother Mary. Many of the nativity scenes are put up outside the yard where people can come and see the beautifully made mangers. Generally nacimientos are set up by 16th December; the figure of baby Jesus is added on the night of Christmas Eve while the figures of the three wise men are added on 5th January.
Another beautiful Mexican Christmas tradition is the theatrical representation of the shepherds on their way to visit baby Jesus, known as Pastorelas. This tradition has its roots to the colonial period in Mexico, it was mainly seen a way to teach the natives about the catholic dogma, which has now changed to light hearted comedy. The play depicts the various difficulties that the shepherd encounters on his journey to visit baby Jesus, where angels and devils appear trying them to convince them about the way route they should take.
In Mexican tradition, Christmas day is the time for families, prayers and feast. Families gather together and go to the church for special services. The entire family gets involved in decorating the Christmas tree with light, greenery, holly and other ornaments. Blindfolded children try to break a clay pot which is known as Piñata which is suspended from a swinging rope. As soon as it is broken, children dash to collect the candy that is kept inside. The church service is followed by Christmas dinner which generally begins with an oxtail soup along with beans and hot chili; this is flowed by roasted turkey and a salad made of fruits and vegetables.
Mexican Christmas Food Traditions
Mexican Christmas tradition involves feasting and everybody participates in this. The food that is made symbolizes many traditions associated with the birth of Christ. During Christmas time it is very common to find bakeries all over the city offering Rosca de Reyes to people. This is an oval sized sweetbread which is decorated with fruits and they come in all sizes. Another important food that symbolizes the celebrations is the sharing of rosca during Epiphany.
Rosca is served along with the tamales and hot chocolate. Inside the rosca, a plastic figure of baby Jesus is buried. This symbolizes the need to find a safe place where Jesus could be born without King Herod finding him. The knife with which everybody cuts the rosca symbolizes the danger to the infant Jesus. One by one, each of the guest cuts the rosca trying not to hit the figure buried inside. Finally whoever gets the figure has to invite all the other participants to a celebration on 2nd February. Christmas celebrations in Mexico extend to February when the nativity scene is put away and the family gathers for another dinner.