In Mexico, Christmas is generally celebrated starting as early as December 16th, lasting until early January. Many families, friends, and workplaces celebrate with a variety of types of parties and traditions. In Sayulita, we have already seen the festivities in the plaza for Lady Guadalupe days; displays of fireworks, horse dancing, canons, and live music all began on December 2nd and lasted for twelve days. One of the other most common Christmas traditions we have in Mexico is the “Posada”. “Posada” is Spanish for “inn” or “lodging”. There are nine Posadas which celebrate the part of the Christmas story where Joseph and Mary looked for somewhere to stay. In traditional Posadas, children are given candles and a board with painted figures of Joseph and Mary riding a donkey. They take these clay figures and make the rounds to houses of friends and neighbors and sing songs, similar to how other cultures go caroling. Posadas may also include traditional Mexican cuisine, games, fireworks, music and dancing, and maybe even a gift exchange. Each night a different house holds the Posada party, and the final Posada occurs on Christmas eve.
One game often played at Posada parties is Piñata. The piñata is decorated, filled with sweets, and hung from the ceiling or a high place. The piñata is often decorated like a ball with seven peaks or spikes around it to represent the “seven deadly sins”. People take turns hitting the piñata until it splits open and the candy spills out.
Nativity scenes, known as the “nacimiento”, are also very popular in Mexico. They are often very large, with the figures being life size! Sometimes a whole room in a house is used for the nacimiento, although this is less common now. The figures are often made of clay and are traditionally passed down through families. As well as the normal figures of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the Shepherds and Three Kings, there are often lots of other figures of different people, including women making tortillas, people selling food and different animals and birds, like flamingos!
Christmas Eve is known as “Noche Buena” and is a family day. People often take part in the final Posada and then in the evening have the main Christmas meal. Popular dishes for the main Christmas meal include Pozole (a thick soup made with hominy, chicken or pork, and chilies), roast turkey, roast pork, tamales, bacalao (salt cod), romeritos (a green vegetable that's cooked in a mole sauce with potatoes and shrimps), and there are normally salads served as side dishes such as Ensalada Nochebuena (Christmas Eve salad). For dessert bunuelos are very popular; they are fried pastries sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon or a hot sugar syrup. At midnight, many people go to a Midnight Mass service, known as the “Misa de Gallo” (which means Mass of the Rooster, as people are up early like Roosters). There are lots of fireworks to celebrate Christmas Day!
In some states in Mexico children expect Santa Claus to come on December 24th. In the south of Mexico however, children expect presents on January 6th at “Epiphany”, which is known as “el Dia de los Reyes”. On el Dia de los Reyes the presents are left by the Three Kings (or Magi). If you've had a visit from Santa on Christmas Eve, you might also get some candy on el Dia de los Reyes! It's traditional to eat a special cake called “Rosca de Reyes” (Three Kings Cake) on Epiphany. A figure of Baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake. Whoever has the baby Jesus in their piece of cake is the “Godparent” of Jesus for that year.
No matter where you are in the world or how you celebrate, the holiday of Christmas for many is a time for families to enjoy being together, while expressing gratitude, and giving thanks or giving to others. What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate Christmas? What Christmas traditions or celebrations do you love the most here in Sayulita? No matter how you choose to celebrate your Christmas holiday this year, we hope you enjoy, and are surrounded by family and loved ones.
*Written by: Aanya Sheikh-Taheri