Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas in Mexico!

Christmas in Australia is a pretty simple affair that consists of going to the beach, bring the turkey and the BBQ and 'Bruce's your uncle'. New Zealand isn't much different, except the uncle is now called Wally. What about Europe, places like Holland? Very much an 'inside' affair for obvious reasons that have something to do with the 'lovely weather' around that time of year. All three countries have a couple of things in common though, they are all plastered in Christmas decorations, spend fortunes on Christmas gifts and the Santas are overweight and in red (yes even in Australia where it's stinking hot). So what was Mexico going to be like then? Is Christmas 'big' in Mexico? Do they have Christmas decorations? We honestly had no idea what to expect.

Maybe it's me but normally by the time Christmas is finally here, I've already had enough of it. For weeks leading up to Christmas, every shop you go into has been playing 24/7 Christmas songs. Christmas decorations are everywhere and everyone has been trying to sell you stuff you don't need. 
For me, being in a small town this Christ-mas, and no need to go to the shopping centres (thank God!), has been a blessing. Sure Lo de Marcos has Christmas decorations, but it's sensible. Just nice instead of completely over-the-top-commercialised. The local grocery shop has not suddenly become Santa's Franchise and the little restaurants are still the same little restaurants. There is a big Christmas decoration on the town square and the spirit is very much there, but not so over commercialised. Refreshingly different.

Of course there are many similarities with the Christmas we're used to as well. Quite a few things were also very different. How different depends on where in mexico you are. Where we are, the celebrations for the Virgin Mary meant big firecrackers every morning at 05.30am for 12 days in a row. The firecrackers are big. Like gas bottles going bang… The celebrations stopped a couple of days ago but this morning, Christmas morning, we were woken up by a big bang again… Maybe they had discovered some left-over bad spirits that needed taking care of :-)
There are also the Virgin of Guadelupe celebrations, starting on December 3rd and ending December 12th which includes a pilgrimage to her basilica in the north of Mexico city, where people pay their respects. Fireworks and indigenous dancing starts at dusk on December 11th and continue all night and into the next day.
Christmas in Mexico is very much a mixture of indigenous, Spanish and European influences. 

One of the typical local decorations is the Pińata. It's often made from papier-mâché. They are decorated and filled with small toys or candy and are broken as part of the ceremony. They are believed to have been introduced by the Spanish. 

The last posada, or procession, is at Christmas Eve. It's followed by a late night mass called 'Mass of the Rooster', popular because it includes elements from the traditional god Huitzilopochtli, i.e. the fireworks, torches, sparklers, plays, food and dancing. Following the mass is a feast of traditional dishes like bacalao, dried cod and revoltijo de romerita. The Christmas turkey is not traditional in Mexico. It replaced the suckling pig that used to be part of the traditional Mexican Christmas meal.

Here in Cruz Maria, Santa came by on a golf cart, an electric golf cart. In Australia it would have been a V8 Ute, I guess Santa's carbon footprint is more of an issue in Mexico…

While writing this piece, my son shows me the Christmas experience from a friend of ours in Northern Alaska, running his dog sledge… have a good one Sven! The neighbours here from Saskatchewan have heard from home too, it's minus 45°C there… While I see and hear this, I'm sitting here in shorts, with a nice glass of ice-cold Coca Cola in the shade as it's a warm day. Christmas in Mexico… it's not so bad :-)

What did we do on Christmas? More our way of the traditional Australian Christmas as you can see... on the beach!