Thursday, December 17, 2009

making a list -- another one

Santa Claus came to town on Tuesday.

So did Joseph, Mary, wise men, shepherds, and an assorted cast that would do Cecil B. DeMille proud.

It is Christmas in Mexico and cultures are clashing.

There were few signs of Christmas in Melaque until this week. The school had its Christmas tree. A few shops had small decorations.

But it was difficult to distinguish the red and green motif for Guadalupe home decorations from Christmas lights. I think there may be another assimilation point embedded in that bait.

With Guadalupe duties out of the way, my neighbors have launched full throttle into Christmas. And I mean Mexican serious.

Around noon on Tuesday, I was rushing back to the house with some ice. Of course, the street was blocked. It seems that every time I get into a rushed northern mode, something gets blocked. The streets. The store aisle. The toilet.

This blockage appeared to be a group of mothers -- with cameras. I have one of those. I should have known what I would find.

If I have learned anything in Mexico, it is this: If you cannot go forward, stop, get out of your car, and enjoy whatever is going on.

I´m glad I did.

The mothers were photographing what mothers the world over photograph -- their children.

But not just their children. Their children dressed up in Christmas pageant finery. Mexican Christmas pageant finery. Not your dad´s left over robe or a worn-out sheet.

Stars. Mary. Joseph. Wise men. Shepherds. Angels. And some not-so-apparent assorted cast members.

Even though they were infant school by age, they formed willingly into a solemn procession. And processed.

They walked only two blocks with faces set sternly showing that Serious Work was being done on the cobblestones of San Patricio.

And they were accompanied by song. I say ¨accompanied¨ because the children were too intent on their roles to join in song. The mothers and teachers provided the cinematic soundtrack for this trek to Bethlehem. They sang full-throated and with joy -- except for the frequent maternal note trapped on the border between singing and crying.

Then they stopped. More singing. More photographs. And the distribution of candy to the entire cast. Solemn faces breaking into smiles of unexpected gifts.

This is, of course, the opening of the season where a very young Mary and an equally-young Joseph will walk home to home seeking entry -- only to be refused. But a door will finally open to admit them to provide succor from their long journey.

A good lesson on life´s vagaries and subsequent grace.

There was not so much grace with the arrival of Santa in San Patricio that evening.

No solemn procession for Saint Nick. He arrived with an entourage of tracer light bedecked vehicles -- including electronic reindeer who appeared to have escaped from the Costco zoo. And there was the omnipresent Mexican fiesta accessory: the speaker-topped car blaring, in this case, Jingle Bells in Spanish.

It was pure Vegas with the odd exception that Santa was on a wooden-wheel cart. Perhaps humility tarted up in show girl lights?

Santa was thin as a Grinch, and as European-featured as -- well, Santa Claus.

The children ran for blocks to greet him. Or to greet the candy he was showering on them.

The parade ended under a giant piñata that was whacked and whacked until it disgorged its bounty of sweets -- sweets that were scooped up by children gone wild. Sugar must be the foundation of everything Christmas in my small village by the sea.

I am not one of those outsiders who rails against American and Canadian culture ruining Mexican holidays.

The ancestors of the people in this village have been dealing with waves of invaders for thousands of years. Each wave has been assimilated into the existing culture. The result being the current menudo that surrounds us.

So, bring on the kids learning about the incarnation and the salving balm of grace. But we can also fit a bit of Santa into the day to celebrate the sheer joy of life.

I suspect the young Jesus would have liked his whack at the piñata.


I have some great photographs to be added to this blog when -- and if -- my computer returns from the land of the undead.


Mic said...

Even your prose is picturesque. Enjoyed the cute post.

Calypso said...

The Mexicans KNOW how to celebrate Christmas - nothing illegal about a nativity scene round these parts ;-)

Have a GREAT holiday amigo!

Anonymous said...

sounds like a great time was had by all! i'm glad that in mexico they wait until shortly before christmas to start the festivities and hopefully the stores do so as well. some retailers here start putting up their christmas wares before it's even halloween-ridiculous-but i guess they need to chase the almighty dollar. looking forward to seeing the pix.

chris arrives tomorrow-can't wait to see him.

take care and have a great day!


Leslie Limon said...

I LOVE this post!!! It captures the spirit of Christmas in Mexico. Old Mexican tradition mixed in with a sprinkling of new customs.

I couldn't help but laugh at the accurate description of the proud mothers. It fits me to a "T"! :D

Vanya said...

Sorry about your computer! I've been having computer problems too. After a year on the coast it was in pretty bad shape. Ive had it in the shop 3 times now, replacing various parts, its practically brand new now. :-) Looks like we're moving into our new place around the 23rd so no we're not doing a tree or decorations this year, although I can see people buying trees and decorations in the houses around us. Lots of nativity scenes here, though, and Ive only seen one Santa at the Mega in town. :-) One thing Im enjoying is the lack of Christmas commercials on TV telling me that I have to spend spend spend this season. What a relief! Let us know how your new place is when you get the chance.

Julian in SC said...

Wow...Steve it sounds like you had a great time on your way home. I agree with Calypso -- probably never would have happened up here in the US - except maybe in my now bitterly cold South country. We aren't as politically correct enough for most other Americans.

My only question is: What happened to the ice? *grin*

Steve Cotton said...

Mic -- Thanks. But wait until you see the photographs. You will have a cute overdose.

Calypso -- The children in the internet cafe are all dressed in their posada finery. I feel as if I am back stage at the First Baptist Church. Except the costumes are better.

Teresa -- Not every place waits. Some of the bigger stores in Manzanillo have had Christmas decorations up since early October.

Leslie -- I have learned to never get between a mothre and her cubs when a camera is involved. My own included.

Vanya -- I solved the commercial problem by getting rid of my television about 15 years ago. The new place is over on the laguna. You will have to stop by if you get to town.

Julian -- The ice returned to its natural state -- very similar to the contents of my lately lamented computer. But it was worth it.

1st Mate said...

Sounds like it was a kid version of a posada. Starting the 14th you'll see groups of people going down the street in the evening led by "Mary and Joseph" and don't be surprised if they knock on your door! You're supposed to say there's no room at the inn, I guess. Might be good to practice ahead of time, in Spanish. Maybe they'll invite you to join them and you'll end up enjoying the adult dulces at a neighbor's house.