Dispatches From Mexico City: The Christmas Season Begins
As we near December 25th, the Christmas markets are going up all over Mexico City. That includes webs of Christmas lights, nativity scenes, red-cheeked Santa Clauses, and hundreds of pine trees lining the roadways around the numerous neighborhoods of the Mexican capital.
There are a lot of celebrations crammed into the months between October and January and in that time I’ve been bouncing around the continent a lot, from Toronto to Mexico to Texas. It’s been nice to see that, while the climates may be different, you can buy the same plastic holiday decorations pretty much anywhere.
As I’ve mentioned before, holidays in Mexico are taken to the next level. Christmas is no different. Here, the celebration continues from early December until January 6th. In that time, nativity scenes – which are undoubtedly the more popular decoration compared to Christmas trees – are put up in homes and churchyards, poinsettias pop up in street markets, and traditional and contemporary Christmas music fills the air.
I recently learned that the poinsettia actually originates in Mexico. Here, they’re called “Noche Buena” or “good night” in honor of Christmas Eve. The pre-Hispanic population called them cuetlaxochitl. Fallen warriors were said to return as hummingbirds and butterflies to drink the nectar.
Children actually receive gifts on two separate occasions. On Christmas, they’re visited by Santa Claus, and early in the New Year the Three Kings, or Three Wise Men, arrive. Usually, the Kings carry more presents because “there are more of them.”
Other traditions include holiday plays that tell the Christmas story called pastorelas, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe (the patron saint of Mexico), and Las Posadas – parties that happen over the course of nine days that include nighttime processions and piñatas. Of course, Christmas Eve/Christmas Day which includes a late night mass and midnight feast in some parts of the country.
New Year’s Eve falls in the middle of this, carrying with it its own traditions that I’ll cover more at a later date.
Three Kings Day is celebrated January 6th to mark the day when the Three Wise Men visited Jesus. I’ve been told this part of the tradition is more important in Mexico City and the more Southern parts of the country. In the North, closer to the United States, Santa Claus is the big name in town.
I’ll talk more about these things as I experience them in the coming months, but right now I’m just enjoying that during this time of year there’s a universal sense of familiarity and hospitality that makes me feel at home no matter where I am.
Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey and business continuity for ChannelE2E. Each Tuesday or so, he offers views about his adopted hometown — his personal Dispatches from Mexico City. Oh, but sometimes he pops up in his home nation of Canada.