The Mexican Holiday Marathon Starts Now!
December is here and for most Mexicans it is that time of the year, the time to celebrate our most beloved season, or what we call the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon. It is a marathon of festivities, food, family gatherings and traditions, where at the end of it whoever tells you they stayed in the same size of jeans is probably lying to you.
Mexico, as you know, has one of the largest Catholic populations in the world, which might explain why there are so many churches in a single town. Everything starts on December 12 with the celebration of The Virgen de Guadalupe. From December16-24th, it is open season for the Posadas. Our Christmas dinner is celebrated on Christmas Eve on December 24th, and on December 25th, it is customary to offer another gathering to share whatever was left over from the dinner the night before; we call this “El re-calentado.” We celebrate - like most of the Continent - New Years on December 31st. January 6th is the arrival of the 3 Magic Kings. So, as you can see, we are pretty booked when it comes to festivities.
Each celebration has its own traditions and meanings depending what part of the country you are visiting or who is your host. There is one celebration that has the same consistency wherever you go, and that is Las Posadas.
The origin of The Posadas was not supposed to be a celebration per se. At the end of the 16th Century, Augustinian Fray Diego Suria requested and was granted - by the Pope - permission to dedicate 9 masses before Christmas as a symbolism of the celebration of the 9months of pregnancy of Virgin Mary, which are also the number of days it took Joseph and Mary to arrive to Bethlehem from Nazaret.
Here is where the Friars worked on making Catholic religion in Mexico the new religion for Indigenous people who used to adore the nature and it's Gods, so they had to get creative. That is how the “aguinaldos” were invented. There were treats (fruits or candy) that were to the assistants after each mass was concluded.
Las Posadas then evolved to be 9 parties that celebrated each month the Virgin Mary was pregnant. In each party, there is a celebration and representation of Joseph and Mary’s journey to find shelter for the birth of Jesus.
The tradition is that neighbors or family members will offer their homes to host a Posada, to welcome the pilgrims with food and drinks while there is an exchange of litanies. The kids break their piñatas, hoping they will get mostly candy, and everybody drinks ponche or atole. It is all about friendship and family having a great time celebrating one the two most important things for Mexicans - the birth of Jesus and their love for each other.
But remember, there are still another 13 miles to run on this Mexican Holiday Race!