Saint Nicholas Tradition: In Mexico, St. Nicholas is not the traditional bearer of gifts. Instead the children believe el Nino Jesus, "the Infant Jesus", brings them gifts.
Highlighted Custom: Las posadas procession
|Painting by Carmen Lomas Garza|
Beginning of December 16, children take part in las posadas, a nightly occuring reenactment of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem and the Inn. Led by two children carrying small statues of Mary and Joseph, a procession of friends and neighbors goes from house to house seeking posada ("shelter"). At each house, the resident responds by refusing lodging, until the weary travelers reach the pre-designated site for the party, where Mary and Joseph are finally recognized and allowed to enter. Once the "innkeepers" let them in, the members of the procession come into the home and kneel around the nacimiento, "Nativity scene", where they place the figures of Mary and Joseph and pray. Finally on Christmas Eve, the procession goes to the church, where the children place a figure of the infant Jesus into the manger.
The Night of Las Posadas, by Tomie dePaola. "Sister Angie has organized the celebration of Las Posadas for many years, in which the people of Santa Fe re-enact Mary and Joseph's search for shelter on the night Jesus was born. This year's performance promises to be very special. Sister Angie's niece Lupe and Lupe's husband, Roberto, are to play the parts of Mary and Joseph. But on the night of the celebration, a snowstorm hits and Lupe and Roberto's car breaks down on their way into town. And to make matters worse, Sister Angie is home sick with the flu. It seems that only a miracle will be able to save Las Posadas."
The beautiful red of the flor de la noche bueana, "flower of the Nativity" (we call it a "poinsettia" plant here in the U.S., named for Joel Roert Poinsett, who served as the American ambassador to Mexico from 1825-29) adds to the colors of the festive celebrations in Mexico.
|Flor de la noche buena, "flower of the Nativity"|
The Legend of the Poinsettia, by Tomie dePaola. Distressed because she has no other gift to offer Baby Jesus, Lucida carries into the church an armful of weeds, each of which suddenly becomes "tipped with a flaming red star"-marking the miraculous blooming of the first poinsettias. Based on a Mexican folktale.
There's lots of cooking to be done for the Christmas celebration...bunuelos are thin round pastries covered with sugar and cinnamon. Dinner may include ensalada de la noche buena, a fruit and vegetable mixture; roast turkey; tortillas; and hot chocolate with vanilla and cinnamon. A special Christmas salad, ensalada novidena, includes fruit, beets, sugarcane, and nuts. It is decorated with small colored candies.
On the eve of Epiphany, children place their shoes in a window. The next morning they will find their shoes filled with gifts given by the Reyes Magos, or Magi, on their journey to Bethlehem. Candlemas, or el Dia de la Candelaria, marks the end of the holidays on February 2. The service celebrates Jesus' presentation in the temple to the elderly priest Simeon, who refers to the babe as, "a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel."
Source for my Christmas Around the World posts:
Mary D. Lankford's Christmas Around the World