Home LifestyleArt and Culture Why is the Nativity scene so important at Christmas in Mexico?

Why is the Nativity scene so important at Christmas in Mexico?

by Yucatan Times
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Christmas celebrations in many regions of Mexico are still primarily associated with Catholicism. 

While foreign traditions like Santa Claus or the trending “Elf on the Shelf” have found a place in the heart of many Mexican families, most people in the country still recognize Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ rather than just a time to exchange gifts. 

But one of the main elements of Christmas for most Mexicans is the Nativity.

The nativity scene is one of Mexico’s most iconic representations of Christmas. Many Mexicans value displaying a nativity scene at home more than a Christmas tree. However, the nativity does not include the baby Jesus until nochebuena, or Christmas Eve, as per Catholic tradition, which marks the birth of Jesus on that night.

The Story of the Christmas Nativity

It all began with a humble couple, Mary and Joseph, living in Galilee, a small town near Nazareth. Mary was presented with an angel sent by the Lord, who told her that she would have a son who would be the Messiah, the world’s savior.

Mary, a virgin, became pregnant with the holy spirit. Still, they did not know that the emperor of that time, Augustus, had decreed that everyone must return to their hometown, so Mary and Joseph left Nazareth for Bethlehem.

On their arrival in Bethlehem, they sought refuge, as Mary had gone into labor. They asked from house to house, but no one offered them a place to stay; desperate to find shelter, they arrived at a home where the owner told them that he had no room for them, but if they wanted, they could stay in his stable. With no other options, they both agreed to stay in the stable, Joseph prepared the place for the baby’s birth, and shortly after Mary began to give birth and Jesus was born, the one who would be the savior was born in a Pesebre (manger).

Nochebuena is more important than Christmas Day in Mexico – on Christmas Eve, families gather around a large meal that includes traditional dishes like bacalao (cod), turkey, or Romeritos (seepweed), and do a little ceremony before placing the baby Jesus in the manger. This task is usually performed by the children of the family.  

In some affluent neighborhoods, you will see magnificent displays of life-size – or larger – nativity scenes on rooftops. Huge nativity scenes funded by the government are also erected in public spaces and buildings. 

Christmas, or Dec. 25, is typically a less festive day and is reserved for recalentado, or leftovers.

TYT Newsroom

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