In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from the December 12th to January 6th.
From December 16th to Christmas Eve, children often perform the ‘Posada’ processions or Posadas. Posada is Spanish for Inn or Lodging. There are nine Posadas. With this, we celebrate the part of the Christmas story where Jose and Maria looked for somewhere to stay. For the Posadas, the outside of houses are decorated with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns.
In each Posada, children receive candles and a board, with painted clay figures of Maria riding on a donkey and Jose, to walk around the streets with. They knock to their friend’s or neighbor’s doors and sing a song at each one. The song they sing is about Jose and Maria asking for a room in the house. But the children are told that there is no room in the house and that they must go away. Eventually they are told there is room and are welcomed in. When the children go into the house they say prayers of thanks and then they have a party with food, games and fireworks.
Each night a different house holds the Posada party. At the final Posada, on Christmas Eve, a manger and figures of shepherds are put on to the board. When the Posada house has been found, a baby Jesus is put into the manger and then families go to a midnight Church service. After the Church service there are more fireworks to celebrate the start of Christmas.
Another tradition to have some fun at Posada parties is breaking the piñata. A piñata is a decorated clay filled with candies and fruit, hung from the ceiling or tree branch. The piñata is often decorated like a star. To break it, children are blindfolded and take it in turns to hit the piñata with a stick until it splits open and the candies and fruit pour out. Then the children rush to pick up as many candies as they can.
¡Without a piñata, there’s not a Posada!
As well as the posada’s, another type of Christmas play known as Pastorelas (The Shepherds). These tell the story of the shepherds going to find the baby Jesus and are often very funny. The devil tries to stop them by tempting them along the way. But the shepherds always get there in the end, often with the help of the Archangel, who comes and beats the devil!
Nativity scenes, known as the “Nacimiento”, are very popular in Mexico. They are often very large, with the figures being life size! Sometimes a whole room in a house is used for the nacimiento, although this is less common now. The figures are often made of clay and are traditionally passed down through families. Mexicans put the “Nacimiento” next to the Christmas tree.
Christmas Trees are becoming more popular in Mexico, but the most important decoration is still the nacimiento.
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