Christmas in Mexico is first and foremost a religious holiday--the
feast of the Nativity. It is a time when social life is happily blended
with the religious observance. The traditional holiday begins on December
16 with the first in a series of nine posadas, processions depicting
the journey of Mary and Joseph and their quest to find an inn for
the night. These parades can lead to a private home or some central
location where the celebration usually ends with the breaking of a
pinata, commonly a decorated clay pot filled with candies or other
small treasures. Children are blindfolded and they take turns swinging
at the pinata with a stick until it finally breaks and the contents
spill out to be gathered up by the eager participants.
Although Christmas trees
are decorated in Mexico, they hold a second place to nativity scenes
or nacimientos which are found in most homes. However, Mexican Christmas
trees come in amazing varieties. The weather is warm so flowers
such as the native poinsettia become appropriate tree decorations,
along with smaller pinatas, colorful paper birds and lanterns. A
spiky yucca cactus could even be turned into a festive "tree"
with the addition of sparkling Christmas ornaments and lights.
On the night of the ninth
Posada which is Christmas Eve, there is a special ring shaped cake
served - La Rosca de Reyes - inside this cake a small doll representing
the Christ Child is baked. Whoever is served this piece must give
a party for their friends. Christmas Day is quiet, a large dinner
is prepared, and some families exchange gifts. Others may follow
the custom of placing shoes on the window sill on the Eve of the
Epiphany with their gift exchange taking place on that feast day,
January 6th, which is also the official end of the Mexican Christmas
fiesta or celebration.