How Christmas Is Celebrated in Mexico
Every culture celebrates different holidays. Even when the holiday is the same, the festivities vary across the world. Christmas in Mexico is also a little different from how people in the United States celebrate it. For starters, the celebrations last much longer from December 16th to January 6th. And in Spanish, they say “Feliz Navidad” instead of “Merry Christmas”.
From December 16th through Christmas Eve, there are nine different processions, or Los Posadas, as they are called in Spanish. These are performed by children and replay the original Christmas story of Joseph and Mary, when they were looking for a place to stay. The word ‘posada’ means lodging. During the festivities, the outside of houses are decorated with moss and evergreens. Families also make lanterns out of brown paper bags. Then they put a candle inside and place these lanterns or farolitos on windowsills, sidewalks, or on their outdoor walls.
The first Posada takes place on December 16th. Every child is given a candle to walk around with. They may also carry a board with a painting of Mary and Joseph. They call at the house of friends and neighbors and sing a song about Mary and Joseph asking for a place to stay. Similar to the story, the children are turned away until eventually one house will welcome them inside.
The host holds a Posada party, but each night a different house is the host. At the party, there are usually food, games, and even fireworks. Interestingly, during Posada parties, there is often a piñata, which the children will take turns hitting. When the piñata breaks, the candy falls out and the children scramble to get their share of it. This custom has been taken over in the United States, except that piñatas are used for birthday parties instead.
The final procession on Christmas Eve sees the board completed as a manger and shepherds are added to the board. When the children find the host, they add baby Jesus to the manger. At this point, the families will attend a midnight Church service with additional fireworks to celebrate the start of Christmas.
The most important decoration for Christmas is the nativity scene, known as nacimiento. Sometimes the figures in the nativity scene are life size, and they even used to dedicate an entire room in the house for nacimiento. While this is no longer the case, the clay figures are still passed down through the family. These include Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the Shepherds, and the Three Kings. Additionally, there are many different other figures, such as women making tortillas and different animals. The baby Jesus isn’t added to the nativity scene until Christmas Eve, and the Three Kings are added at Epiphany. The nativity scene remains the center of the Christmas decoration, although Christmas trees are also gaining in popularity. Poinsettias are also a popular Christmas Eve decoration.
Santa Claus and the Three Kings
In some areas of Mexico, children are eagerly awaiting Santa Claus on December 24th. However, in the south of Mexico, children don’t get presents until January 6th at Epiphany. This holiday is known as ‘el Dia de los Reyes’. On this day, the Three Kings leave presents for the children, much as they brought presents to baby Jesus. Even children who got presents from Santa may receive candy on el Dia de los Reyes.
Another tradition is to eat a cake called ‘Rosca de Reyes’, which is the Three Kings’ Cake on January 6th. Inside the cake, there is a little hidden figure of baby Jesus. Whoever finds the baby in their piece is considered the Godparent of Jesus that year. They also have to host a tamale party on February 2nd, or Candlemas Day or La Candelaria. This is considered the end of the Christmas season and celebrated with a religious service and delicious chicken tamales wrapped in corn dough.
Family in Mexico
During Christmas, many families spend more time together. In Mexico, the family is a fundamental part of society. Mexican families are often very large, especially in rural areas. The connections to immediate and extended family members run very deep, and most Mexicans have a big sense of responsibility towards their family members and even close friends. In Mexico, parents are treated with respect. Even though there is a struggle between individual wants and needs and those of the family, family is valued very highly by everyone.