Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
The Holidays have arrived at Lakeside and there are differences in the way we celebrate. Halloween as celebrated in the United States is not the Mexican way. Instead; November 1st is the dia de los muertos for the infants who passed away. While November 2nd is dia de los muertos for the adults. Many north of the border cringe at the thought of this holiday thinking it is ghoulish.
Yet I have found it much more meaningful as Mexicans prepare the alters in their home or at grave-sites to honor their dead. The cemeteries are full of people decorating graves, and sharing the favorite food and stories of their dead surrounded by photos, or objects representing the loves of those who passed. I’ve seen jewelry, tequila, cigars, books, or other personal objects. We walk through these beautiful symbols and peek into the lives of not only those who have passed, but those who remain to carry on their traditions.
There is no equivalent to Thanksgiving in the Mexican culture. Yet I don’t find that strange, as each day I see Mexicans giving thanks for what they have. Perhaps you have been in a local tienda, and have seen someone making the sign of the cross after your transaction. They are giving thanks for the first money received that day.
Christmas, however, shows the most divergence between the Mexican culture and those of ex-pats. Instead of the rampant commercialism and the buy, buy, buy of our culture, the Mexican celebration is steeped in traditions of religious significance. The Posada’s lead off the season. This is where the journey of Joseph and Mary is recreated. Schools, churches and communities all join in posadas where the couple representing Joseph and Mary go from door to door looking for shelter. The story of the birth of Jesus is retold. If you have never been witness to a posada, you are denying yourself a wonderful experience.
Christmas eve is meant for church and family. There is the evening service or mass. Then it is back home for traditional games and favorite foods and the exchange of gifts. Part of the delight is exchanging gag gifts.
But Santa does make calls during Christmas eve, and in preparation the family will leave a single shoe or boot by the fireplace or outside a door to receive a gift. No stockings allowed. Christmas day is for friends of the family. A time of celebrating the value of their friends is sharing the wealth of friendship.
New Year’s follows next, with the celebration of the grapes at midnight. 12 grapes at midnight as they celebrate and plan for the new year.
We are usually done with the Holidays after New Year and while our culture is busy breaking New Year’s resolutions and losing holiday pounds, Mexicans are gearing up for Three Kings Day on January 6, where children who have reached the age of three are presented to God in a ceremony at church.
On this day, Mexicans also share bread known as Rosca de Reyes. Inside of the frosted and fruited bread, are small symbols of the baby Jesus and sometimes even the Three Kings. Representing the visitation and gifts of the three Kings. If you happen to receive the hidden piece, you have received a blessing. This blessing means that on Día de la Candelaria on February 2, you will share your blessing by providing tamales to all those you broke bread with on Three Kings Day.
In the years I have spent in Mexico, I have come to cherish their traditions and I hold them dear.