Christmas in Mexico is serious business. In a country where religion is part of daily life, their traditions are often based in Catholic beliefs. Saying this, Mexicans love to party, and they sure know how to.
Celebrations start on 12 December — the Virgin Mary´s birthday — and go through the month, finishing on the morning of 6 January with the arrival of the three kings loaded with presents sneaked in the kids’ homes just the way Santa does.
This period is known as the Guadalupe-Reyes marathon as one needs the stamina of a 50km runner to cope with all the fiestas, delicious food, dancing and, of course, tequila by the gallon.
Nine days before Christmas, on the 16th, Posadas start. In these nocturnal celebrations people gather singing songs and reading stories from the bible, remembering the days Joseph and Mary spent looking for shelter before the arrival of baby Jesus.
After this, things get less grave; hot tamarind drinks are served to enjoy along tostadas–crunchy tortillas topped with beans, spicy chicken and fresco cheese.
Then the most expected event of the night arrives: the piñata.
This star-shaped gadget wrapped in bright colours and filled with sweets and fruit hangs from a rope above the partakers, its sides representing the seven sins.
Kids and not-so-kids queue to have a go; the goal is to break the piñata with the help of a wooden stick and with the challenge of having the eyes covered, which represents faith in God.
Once the temptation is smashed into pieces, the reward falls over you with blessings and happiness in the shape of lollies.
On Christmas Eve, the biggest celebration takes place. You won´t see a whole turkey with all the trimmings on the menu, instead, the tables are filled with exquisite dishes that combine Aztec and Spanish flavours; cultural syncretism that took 500 years to perfect and became what Mexican cuisine is today.
Food is prepared carefully through the day to enjoy late that night before the bells sing exactly at midnight when the custom calls for a toast and to hug each other in front of the Christmas tree.
Just to mention some of them: Tamales – steamed savory corn cakes wrapped in corn husk and stuffed with pork and various chile sauces. Pozole – spicy chicken, pork and hominy soup. Mole – a dark, almost ebony sauce made of chocolate and dry chile, with spices and nuts. The most representative and glamorous of Mexican dishes, served with poached wild turkey and rice, finishing with Buñuelos – wafer-thin dough fried till crispy drizzled with strong molasses syrup.
All this followed by the best tequilas, fireworks, music and that intrinsic happiness that Mexicans own.
Christmastime in Mexico, as in the rest of the world, is for celebrating with our loved ones no matter what religion or traditions we choose to follow.