Christmas Traditions in Mexico: How we do it in Oaxaca
Christmas is only a couple of days away! After Maja shared how they are spending holidays in Croatia, I will tell you something about Christmas traditions in Mexico and how my family celebrates this holidays in Oaxaca, Mexican state in the south of the country.
Holidays officially start on December 1 when we start to decorate the house. We go to the local market to buy the prettiest pine and start with putting the decorations up. In my house, we have the custom to decorate it with golden ornaments and many white lights placed around it. Underneath the tree we place a tablecloth, next to it a small Christmas village and behind it the nativity scene.
Days before Christmas in Mexico are full of festivities. From 16 to 24 of December we hold traditional parties called “Las Posadas“. These nine days represent nine months of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus. Traditionally, during the posada, the whole family gets together and perform the biblical journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We are walking around the block while singing Christmas songs and lighting sparklers and candles. When we reach the house, we split into two groups (the hosts and the guests) and we recreate the moment when Mary and Joseph were looking for a shelter (in Spanish posada means inn). The special song called “pedir posada” is sung, asking the hosts to open the door of the house. The doors are opened and celebrations can start with breaking a piñata (or few of them) and serving traditional food and drinks. We usually eat Mexican snacks as medias tortas with beans and cheese, tostadas, atole, ponche de frutas, and candies. Between friends is common to have skipped the peregrination and go directly to food and drinks.
During the whole month, you can try traditional “buñuelos” which are like a big sweet tortilla. You can eat it with honey or special pinky sugar. If that is not enough sugar for you, you can accompany it with a cup of hot artisanal chocolate, atole or champurrado.
You might ask why piñatas for Christmas? Well, the original piñata was shaped like a star with seven points. Each point represented one of seven deadly sins. Piñatas are always made in bright colors and they look very attractive. Their looks was a symbol of temptation and sins. Kids are usually hitting piñatas blindfolded which represent the will to overcome the sin. Once you break the piñata (or when your faith overcame the sin), you will receive the rewards of the heaven, or in this case toys and candies. Back in the time, piñata were used as an allegory to help to evangelize the native people of Mexico. Because of that relation with the church, piñatas are still used for Christmas. However, today people buy any shape they can find, it is not only the star anymore.
23rd of December in Oaxaca we have a contest called “Noche de Rábanos” (Night of the Radishes). It is an opportunity for craftsmen to create amazing figures or historic scenes from the radish. The locals and thousands of tourists come over in the evening to admire their work. This event has its origin in the colonial period when Spaniards introduced the radish to Mexican people. Oaxaca has a long wood carving tradition and a long time ago farmers started to carve the radish as well in order to get customers’ attention during the Christmas period so they would buy their wood products as well. Since 1897 there is a formal competition. It looks amazing so that evening you can enjoy their creativity, fireworks and also you can buy some of the handicrafts. However, the radish gets dry pretty soon and they wilt so the exposition lasts only for few hours. Also, you can’t eat the radish afterward because, in order to grow fast and big for the contest, they are full of chemicals.
Christmas day is marked by preparations for Christmas dinner. In the evening the whole family arrives at my aunt’s house and we celebrate our last posada. This posada is different because that was the day when Jesus was born. By tradition, posada is supposed to be celebrated at midnight, be we always do it a bit earlier, around 10 or 11 pm. Each family has a sculpture of baby Jesus and after the last posada women take the sculpture in their arms and they sign a lullaby for him, playing a role of Mary. This tradition is called “arrullo del niño Dios” (it’s time to sleep baby-God). After the song, they place the baby into nativity scene and it is time to have dinner. We serve lots of different dishes like turkey, lamb, cod, salads, pork and other. I always eat a turkey leg, as you can see in the photo. 🙂 Again we smash a couple of piñatas and enjoy fireworks.
On Christmas day we have lunch at my parents’ house. Mom usually makes “romeritos“, southern Mexican dish. Again the family arrives and celebrations continue, but it is a bit quieter because everyone is tired from last night. Stores already start to offer big discounts, so sometimes we even go to the mall to buy some things, for example, cheap Christmas decorations for next year.
New Years is a little bit different than Christmas. Usually, we celebrate Christmas with mom’s side of the family and New Years with dad’s. We prepare dinner at home and how the night goes on, my father’s brothers and sisters join us. We dinner pasta, cod, and salad. At midnight, or to be more accurate – 12 seconds before midnight, we eat one grape each second. Each grape represents one month of the upcoming year and for each, we make a promise or we ask for a wish for this new year in front of us. It is very common to promise you will do exercise, lose some weight, eat healthy or wish to get a better job, be healthy or find the love of your life. When the clock strikes midnight, we make a toast, hug each other and congratulate. The dinner continues until 2 or 3 am. As you can see, it is not common to go out and party, we traditionally spend the evening with family.
Holidays magic ends with January 6, “Día de los Reyes Magos”. It is a day when all good kids receive presents (like Santa Claus) and they are playing with them the whole day. In the evening we enjoy “Rosca de Reyes”. It is some kind of bread that looks like a big and very tasty donut. Inside of it are hidden 3 little toys. Each person cuts their piece of bread and if you get the toy you need to make tamales and atole on February 2, “Día de la Candelaria”. We usually eat this bread while drinking hot chocolate and after everyone says is time to start the diet 🙂
Which Mexican tradition do you like the most? How do you celebrate holidays in your country?
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