Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
December in Mexico
As a Midwesterner, December in Mexico is a dream come true. No snow; no ice, no cold. Mexico is full of traditions different from those north of the border. It is wonderful to observe the local customs. Yet in all my years in Mexico, Christmas Day for me is just not the same. There is no searching out the window to see if it will be a “White Christmas” and we are blessed with snow. It seems like the true fun of Christmas to me was always the kids. When there are no children to hang socks by the fireplace, have trouble falling asleep because they are so excited about Santa, and Christmas morning there is no sea of wrapping paper and empty boxes and string to pick up from the floor.
While I miss the customs I grew up with, I embrace the customs of this nation I chose to live in. I didn’t move to another country to change it into the midwest. The non-commercial approach to Christmas has always been endearing to me. At this time of year, I like to think about all the others. I didn’t really do much for presents, as I did for charities and needy organizations. It always had more meaning that accumulating things. We would often “adopt” a family and give gifts for all the kids and of course, the Mom and Dad.
December is the time of year when the Mexican employees get their annual bonus. That means your maid, gardener and dog-walker, cook, etc. They all receive a bonus by the 15th of December. The garbage men ring their bell to collect their bonuses, and bonus gifts are often given to those who have been especially helpful to you during the year. With these bonuses, the Mexicans do their Christmas shopping. But their children don’t receive tons of toys. They don’t hang stockings by the fireplace, but they put a single shoe outside their door.
Gag gifts for relatives really spice up the parties as the families get together and celebrate. Often the children get one gag gift, and a real gift. The children I have encountered are so grateful for their families, their lives, and they know their parents have little funds. They go to church, they spend time with their families, and they have fun with their friends.
Usually, many businesses will close for two weeks at the end of December for both Christmas and New Years. Schools close. And people spend time celebrating their lives and their loved ones. Before the breaks, schools and villages have posadas. These are reinactments of the night of the birth of Christ. They are great to witness.
For those expats who stay year round, this is the time to show your generosity. Village authorities collect toys and supplies for needy families they take donations. Perhaps you have a family nearby that could use some Christmas cheer.
But the season doesn’t end with Christmas or New Year. Three Kings Day day is January 6, 2016. This is the days when Rosca de Reyes an oval bread is shared. When someone ends up with the small figure of the baby Jesus, they must provide all those sharing the cake with tamales on the last day of the season on February 2nd. The traditional day for exchanging gifts used to be, and for some, still is Three Kings Day. But as has happened with so many things, the custom of Santa and shopping has slowly infiltrated and is slowly changing a time honored custom. No matter how you celebrate your holiday, honor your custom and think of the needy.