Mexicanos, and Latinos, enjoy Christmas with great zeal and enthusiasm. There is a big difference between the celebrations of Christmas that are observed throughout the world and the festivities in Mexico. Christmas celebrations in Mexico start from December 3rd and continue till February 2nd.
A series of religious customs, and rituals are followed as part of Christmas celebration. Firstly, the celebration is marked with the ceremony of the Virgin de Guadalupe celebrated Dec 3-12, a novena (praying for nine days).
Celebration of the Virgen de Guadalupe is on December 12. On this day people from all parts of Mexico make their way to Mexico’s chief religious center at the Basilica of the Virgen of Guadalupe, located in Villa de Guadalupe Hidalgo, a northern neighbourhood of Mexico City. There, they will celebrate the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) with a mass ceremony and a traditional fair in her honor. The Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe became an national holiday in 1859. http://www.mexonline.com/virginofguadalupe.html
Here in Minnesota faithful and devout Mexicanos y Latinos also celebrate with mariachi, processions, reenactments, danzantes, prayer, roses, candles, and food. Even if you are not a believer, it’s a heartwarming experience, it’s an overwhelming feeling of love and faith that transcends from all of the believers. Hundreds and hundreds of people visit Our Lady of Guadalupe Church located at 401 Concord Street, St. Paul, MN starting from 10pm on December 11 through midnight on December 12, a beautiful display of roses and candles as the hundred of people bring la Virgen fresh roses. One of my favorite and endearing tradition of celebrating La Virgen de Guadalupe is the implementation of the main character of the Virgen Guadalupe’s story, Juan Diego, the peasant to whom it is believed she miraculously appeared to in the wintery mountains with roses, young children are dressed up as Juan Diego:
After December 12, begins the ritual of Posadas and Pastorelas, which starts from December 16th and lasts nine days, also known as a ‘novena’, and continues till the 24th of December. The Posada is the re-enactment of the journey of Mary (on a donkey) and Joseph looking for a “room at the inn.” In Mexico, families, churches, friends, and neighbors, go from door to door in neighborhoods knocking on doors seeking an inn for the fatigued couple Jose and the expecting woman, Maria. Here in the states, many have modified the custom to take place within churches or at each others homes.
“Pastorelas are plays that recreate the biblical passage where the shepherds follow the Star of Bethlehem to find the Christ Child. In order to reach the birth place of the Redeemer, they have to experience a series of changes in fortune and confront the Devil, who will do everything possible to prevent them from completing their mission. It is at that moment that the Archangel Michael intervenes to defend the shepherds on their journey”. http://www.inside-mexico.com/pastorelas.htm
On the 24th, aka, Noche Buena, http://www.latinpost.com/articles/4672/20131211/nochebuena-celebrations-december-24th-latino-american-households.htm the Christmas celebration begins, it’s when Maria y Jose finally find an inn and they are welcomed into the home. On the 24th, the baby Jesus “El Nino Dios” is laid in the manger, but not before first singing him a special lullaby, “Arrullo al Nino Dios” the song is here, typically at the end of the posada, the baby Jesus figurine is cradled in a blanket and rocked back and forth while the posada participants sing the lullaby, then he is dressed in beautiful special clothing, and then placed in the manger.
Typically, in Mexico and most latino countries, it begins at midnight on the 24th, after La Misa de Gallo (midnight mass) commences the feast of foods, gifts, singing, and dancing, and sometimes even pinatas are included in the celebrations.
Whether you celebrate the religious Christmas tradition, majority participate at some level of the holiday celebrations. For some it may be the gift giving, the parties, and/or the food. And no doubt as with all Mexican celebrations, we have special traditional food that is specific to this holiday too.
THE NAVIDENA FOOD
The most typical foods and beverages for Christmas are:
Bunuelos(a fried flour tortilla type dessert covered with cinnamon & sugar and a special sweet honey)
Pernil(seasoned pork leg)
Tamales, the most traditional Christmas food, as mentioned in my previous blog, is a process best done in parts and divided into a 2-3day process. The mole making, the masa making, the meat cooking, and then the assembly & tamales cooking, rarely can one do all the work involved into one day. Because of the labor intense process of making tamales, the mole and masa are done in advance and then assembled often times the 24th during the day, then steam cooked in the evening so that they can be enjoyed that night during the celebration. At El Burrito Mercado the most popular tamales flavor is the pork in red sauce, but at this time of year we also make a variety of flavors including the popular tamales dulces either of sweet corn or pineapple & coconut.
Mole, a unique ‘gravy’ like consistency made with more than 13 spices & chile combination, it too is another time consuming food to create thus made on special occasions such as Christmas and New Years Eve.
Pozole, a tasty pork, chicken, hominy soup most traditional with a red chile broth, but also made in a clear broth or green pozole. While probably one of the simplest foods to make, also one of the tastiest!
Romeritos in Revoltijo (green herbs in a special sauce),and bacalao (cod fish dish) and ponche navideno (a fruity hot punch) and atole(a hot, thick, flavored corn starch beverage).
At El Burrito Mercado, we are one of the only mercados in Minnesota to offer the most variety for Mexican and Latino holiday foods as well as items such as the nacimientos, Juan Diego clothing for children, and the ‘vestimiento’ for baby Jesus. In addition, all of the traditional foods mentioned above plus much more, can be special ordered from our deli/catering, and the ingredients are available for purchase to prepare from scratch at home.
My personal Christmas experiences include growing up with the posadas and tamalada. I now enjoy these traditions with my immediate family as well, it’s important for me that my daughters understand and I hope embrace their cultural traditions. I love setting up our nacimeinto (nativity display), hosting a small posada with my family at my home, and plan a mini tamalada with my family and close friends, and of course eating all the traditional holiday foods from El Burrito Mercado!
This holiday season I wish for you many blessings, joy, and peace. Feliz Navidad!