We are a week into the Christmas month in Mexico and Puerto Vallarta has once again captured the Christmas spirit. There are lights and displays all over town and many stores STILL have Christmas trees for sale. My foreign friends used to think I was crazy for getting my Christmas tree in November, but if you snooze you lose and most places with real trees were already sold out by the first of the month.
In Puerto Vallarta, the first twelve days of December celebrate homages to the Virgin Guadalupe. Beginning the first day of the month and continuing until midnight the 12th of December, there are pilgrimages to Puerto Vallarta’s Cathedral in Centro giving thanks for the year past and praying for help for the year to come. The joyful processions include dancers, floats, singers, bands, costumes and of course, mariachis. The main plaza and the principal streets in downtown are also blocked off and are now filled with the smells of wonderful holiday food, tacos, churros, elotes and other delicious Mexican treats.
During the last three days, the processions continue all day and all night with the largest procession – the “Favorecidos” or “Favored Ones” – taking place at noon on December 12th. I live on the hill behind the cathedral so I always know when a group (procession) is entering the church – the bells ring incessantly and rockets go off. Yes, it is loud, but a “good” kind of loud.
The Guadalupe Feast Day, or “El Dia de la Guadalupana,” is celebrated each December 12th and commemorates the day on which the dark-skinned Virgen de Guadalupe appeared to a humble peasant, Juan Diego, on a hillside in Tepeyac outside of Mexico City in 1531. The Virgen is the patron saint of Mexico and this day is celebrated all over the country, with the largest crowds gathering in Tepeyac to recall this miracle. In present day, it kicks off what we call the Guadalupe Reyes Marathon, or Maratón de Guadalupe Reyes, the time of the year between the Guadalupe Feast Day and El Dia de los Reyes Magos, the Day of the Three Kings, which is celebrated on January 6th with many parties and very little work.
To be perfectly honest, most people here stop real work at the beginning of the month. Most government offices start their shut down the first and second weeks of December with the last days before vacation dedicated to “posadas” or Christmas parties. When school gets out the Friday prior to Christmas, Puerto Vallarta is inundated with visitors from all over Mexico and abroad, looking for beautiful beaches on which to celebrate Navidad.
One of the things I love most about Mexico is how everyone here takes the time to enjoy their vacations, families and friends. There will always be time for work….just not now!