Tuesday, December 23, 2014

world without end

Well, maybe not the "world," but, here in Mexico, it seems like Christmas without end.

John Calypso reminded us yesterday in a comment that Mexican Christmas celebrations seem to go on and on and on.  Unlike the northern custom, where weeks of hectic activity result in one night of anti-climactic release, Mexicans start early and celebrate often.

The season of cohetes startling street dogs and aging gringos begins at the start of December leading up to the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on 12 December.  The feast has nothing in particular to do with Christmas -- other than the fact that Mary gets a starring role in both productions.

But it is a big day in the country when everyone celebrates Mexico's patron saint.  Well, not everyone.

In my area of Mexico, tradition has only a light hold on the general population.  The faithful celebrate.  But the large contingent of non-Catholic Christians (and that population is proportionately high here) and what I might call Catholic-Lites simply do not bother.

However, everyone in town for the first two weeks of December knows that something big is going on.

On 16 December, the traditional Christmas customs kick off.  Starting with the posadas.  There are supposed to be nine nights of these.  My experience is that only a few are performed.

The idea is to have children re-enact Mary and Joseph looking for an inn in Bethlehem.  They stop and sing at houses where they are refused entry in song.  A little like Godspell -- without the catchy tunes.

They are finally admitted to a house where a grand party is held.  It is not quite what the Bible says.  But not even the Good Book is going to get in the way of a good party.

Santa has made big inroads here on the coast.  That is not universal in Mexico.  Because of the strength of the Santa cult in our villages, many children expect their presents on 25 December.

The traditional day for gift giving, though, is 6 January -- el dia de los reyes, or the Day of the Three Kings.  What we would call the three wise men.  In this instance, the Mexicans have a better understanding of the original source material.  After all, the wise men were the gift givers.  Santa doesn't show up until Revelation.

By the way, if you counted the days between 25 December and 6 January, you now have a good start on discovering the roots of the Twelve Days of Christmas and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

And here's a tasty tidbit.  Mexicans not only get gifts on the Day of the Three Kings, they also get a slice of cake called rosca de reyes -- or, not so originally, Three Kings Cake.  Some lucky person will find the figure of baby Jesus in their slice.  Along with the honor of getting a trip to the dentist to repair a cracked tooth, the recipient becomes the baby's godparent for the coming year, and must cook up a special enchilada dinner for everyone present.

The dinner is served on 2 February.  On Candelmas.  That is the day Catholics celebrate Joseph and Mary presenting the infant Jesus at the Temple.

So, there you have it.  John Calypso is correct.  The Christmas season here can be exhausting.  But it also provided me with some text to accompany the photographs of Sunday night's Christmas parade.

These events bring out my small town roots.  And nothing will do it more than a local parade.  Even when it looks as if more people are in the parade than those watching it.

This one started at my house and wound its way into the center of Barra de Navidad.  A walk I try to make each morning.

Was it fancy?  Nope?  The whole thing looked improvised.  And much of it was.

But that is not the value of these events.  Walking along with the participants caused me to smile and laugh.  And there can be little in life better than that.

When I arrived at the square, I was surprised to find it newly-decorated for the evening.  That stylized Christmas tree would have looked great in my courtyard.

I can only hope that each of you have been experiencing an elongated Christmas every bit as enjoyable as mine.

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