Christmas in Yucatan is usually accompanied by a mild, nice fresh weather. Families usually take the time to shop for that perfect gift for each of the family members, as well as to purchase the pretty ornaments that will adorn the house that will host Christmas dinner. We decorate our homes with lilies and evergreens while the kids cut intricate designs in colour paper to make lanterns called “farolitos” we set along sidewalks, on windowsills, and on rooftops and outdoor walls to illuminate the house with the spirit of Christmas we also do “globos” that elevate with the heat from a candle we place inside.
Usually mom and Granma hit the “mercados” looking for the goodies we will eat, while taking their time in the market stalls, called “puestos”.
Our celebration of Christmas begins with what we call “posadas” on December 16. The ninth evening of las posadas is “Noche Buena” or Christmas Eve. Usually catholic families take their children to church to a procession and place a figure of the baby Jesus Christ in the “Nacimiento” or nativity scene there. Then everyone attends mass.
Usually after mass, the church bells ring out and fireworks light up the skies. In some families, the children receive gifts from Santa Claus on this night, in other families this tradition is carried out by the “Reyes Magos” or the 3 Wise Kings until January 6.
The children help to set up the family’s “Nacimiento” next to the Christmas tree in the best room in the house. The scene includes a little hillside, the stable, and painted clay figures of the Holy Family, shepherds, the Three Kings, and animals. The children bring moss, rocks, and flowers to complete the scene.
Friends and families begin the nine-day observance of las posadas by reenacting the Holy Family’s nine-day journey to Bethlehem and their search for shelter in a posada, or inn while with candlelights in a procession we sing the posada song.
In this song, people outside the house, request for “posada” or shelter for the weary travelers. When at last they find a family that will give shelter, the children say a prayer of thanks and place the figures of Mary and Joseph in the family’s nacimiento. Then everyone enjoys a fiesta at the home where the celebration is carried out.
For the children –and some times for the adults as well– we brake a “piñata”. The piñata can be made of hard cardboard, clay or papier-mache figure shaped like a star, an animal, or some other object and covered with colorful paper streamers. The piñata is filled with candy and small gifts and hung from the ceiling. The blindfolded children or grownups are spun around and given a big stick, while singing the following song:
“Dale dale dale, no pierdas el tino, porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino….
Dale dale dale, dale y no le dió pónganme la venda porque sigo yo…”
Everyone take turns trying to break open the piñata with the stick –sometimes accidents happen and yes, there have been a few times that a head brakes before the piñata– while the piñata is raised and lowered. Everybody scrambles for the gifts and treats when the piñata shatters and spills its treasure.
Christmas Day is a time for church and family. After church services, families gather for what we call a “nach” or recalentado which are the leftovers from the night before. In some families’ gifts are given then, in others is the night before at midnight, to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
In some households the kids will wait to see what the “Reyes” -Three Kings- will bring as they pass through on their way to Bethlehem on the night of January 5, while they get ready for the next day, when families and friends will enjoy delicious hot chocolate and will cut “La rosca” and a ring-shaped cake that carries a tiny figure of a baby that represents Jesus… but that, is a whole different story.
On behalf of The Yucatan Times team we wish you a Merry Christmas!
The Yucatan Times