The holiday season has gotten underway in Merida, with a flurry of shopping and public celebrations leading up to the family-centered Noche Buena on Dec. 24. A feast for the senses, it’s hard not to succumb to the infectious excitement that permeates the city this time of year.
Last weekend was marked by two impressive events considered the unofficial start to Merida’s holiday celebrations.
First, several thousand devoted followers of the Virgin of Guadalupe gathered at the Church of San Cristóbal south of downtown Merida to honor Mexico’s patron saint on her feast day, Dec. 12. San Cristóbal, whose interior walls are adorned with paintings of the Virgin appearing to campesino Juan Diego, overflowed with faithful who attended Mass, brought flowers and lighted candles. The festive atmosphere was enhanced by small musical bands, impromptu parades and dozens of vendors offering food, refreshments and religous objects.
Many of the faithful were pilgrims who traveled long distances, some on foot, others on bicycles, motorbikes and other forms of wheeled transport, all adorned with images of their patroness. Tired from their journeys, the pilgrims took rooms in posadas in the neighborhood or simply stretched out to rest on nearby sidewalks.
Meanwhile, on the night of Saturday Dec. 12, Merida witnessed another successful and carefully orchestrated public spectacle, the Noche Blanca (“White Night”). This year’s fifth annual edition of the arts-oriented celebration attracted an estimated 42,000 enthusiastic participants to some 420 events throughout the city’s central colonias.
With the Parque Central decked out in Christmas lights and a Nativity scene, spectators were treated to daunting aerial acrobatic performances, a reenactment of conquistador Francisco de Montejo’s meeting with Maya leaders and a modernistic light show projected on the front of Merida’s 16th Century cathedral. Other events were held at galleries, museums and restaurants around the city.
Throughout Merida’s central retail district, shoppers jam stores and sidewalks in feverish hunts for perfect gifts. And the explosion of shimmering colors of elaborate Christmas piñatas displayed at candy stores is the ultimate feast for the eyes.
If you need a refreshing reminder of the best of Christmas spirit, Merida can provide it.
Text and photos by Robert Adams for TYT
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