An Old School Christmas


Before NAFTA and the Americanization of Christmas becoming prevalent in Mexico, families celebrated Christmas longer than almost all other countries. The celebrations, known as “Posadas,” started nine days before “Noche Buena,” or Christmas Eve.

The Posadas were a reenactment of Mary and Joseph looking for lodging before Christ's birth. This tradition was a neighborhood event where each night, starting on December 16, each family decorated their home one night with a Nativity scene minus the Baby Jesus. The owners were the innkeepers, while others in the neighborhood had to request lodging by singing a short chant. They carried candles in their hands and as statues of Joseph leading the donkey Mary rodTo see other Nativity scenes, visit...e on.

After visiting two homes, the procession reached the home designated for that night. Everyone entered and circled the Nativity, praying the Rosary and singing Christmas songs and hymns. Once everything was completed, the children celebrated with a piñata and the adults drank “ponche con piquete,” a punch made out of fruits, cinnamon sticks and alcohol.

On Christmas Eve, Mexican families attended Mass and then returned home to have dinner together, joined by any friends who celebrated Christmas alone. The most important part of the evening was placing the Baby Jesus in his manger in the Nativity scene.

Mexican children did not receive presents on Christmas but waited instead until January 6, known as Wise Men Day. The families believed that since the Magi brought gifts to Jesus, they were the designated ones to bring gifts to the children. The Magi normally put the present(s) in the shoes the children leave out, but on many occasion, the gift was a new pair of shoes.

On February 2, the Nativity was put away during what is known as the Day of Purification. The person who was named the Godparent of Jesus was responsible for making a christening gown for Him, and then the entire family had a meal of tamales.




Copyright 2003 Mary E. Bishop