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The Mexican Christmas Holiday Is a Time for Joy  

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Piñatas at Christmas in Ajijic, Mexico
Credit: Judy King

The Mexican Christmas holiday is a time for joy for both Mexicans and expats. The time before Christmas day is very special in Mexico because we have the tradition of the Advent Wreath, which is closer to Catholicism, and the Anniversary of the Apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12th, a story worth a separate blog. After this big celebration, we have the very famous posadas.

Posadas are only from the 16th to the 24th of December, and in the festivities, we replay the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem who look for a place to give birth to baby Jesus. How do we do this traditional play? Well, the hosts stay in their house and play the role of the landlords that Mary and Joseph visited until finally one kind landlord allowed them to stay in his barn. The guests with lighted candles play the part of Mary and Joseph, asking very kindly to stay in a good place to spend the glorious night when Jesus was born.

This representation comes from the first evangelizers during the Spanish colonial period, where they used to say prayers, telling the journey of Mary and Joseph. However, with the decades, the prayers became a beautiful song that we still sing today. When the song ends, we all gather and sing the last stanza while we enter the house.

When this play is finished, we have the traditional ponche de frutas. This beverage is a warm drink made with fruit of the season such as, sugar cane, tangerine, guava, apples, pears, a fruit called tejocote and cinnamon.

In this posada we also have the most famous piñatas. Every kid loves piñatas, but where do they come from?

The tradition of the piñata came to Mexico in the 16th century when the Augustinian friars of Acolman, Nezahualcóyotl, in the current State of Mexico received the authorization from Pope Sixtus V to celebrate the Aguinaldo Masses, which would later become the posadas. It was at those masses, which took place in the days before Christmas, that the friars introduced the piñata.

The original piñata was a clay pot, decorated with thin paper to make it more colorful and represent superfluous pleasures. The seven cones attached to the pot symbolized the seven capital sins that have to be destroyed blindfolded, which represented the idea that faith is blind, as we say in Spanish. With the help of a wooden stick, the piñata was broken, showing that virtue destroys all temptations. The candies and other goodies inside the piñata represented the richness of the kingdom of heaven, therefore the teaching is that faith and virtue can overcome sin and receive all the rewards from heaven.

Unfortunately, this year, it’s the time to stay home and perhaps tell all the stories of our memories of these festivities virtually. We can still celebrate life and love and the fact that we are still here making the best out of the circumstances we are facing. We thank God for being kind to us, we hope for the best and we truly wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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