Monday, November 28, 2011

Spanish: How do people celebrate Christmas in Mexico?



Hello everyone, Claudia Sadowski here. The Christmas season is fast approaching and since celebrations of all natures occur everywhere, I have decided to share with you how Christmas is celebrated in Mexico. Traditionally, Mexico is a country predominantly Catholic for at least 95% of the population. Therefore, many of the celebrations are religious oriented. Christmas is no exception. From the 16 to the 24 of December, people organize “Posadas” this word literally means “inn” or a place to stay. The story describes when Mary and Joseph were in their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and they were looking for a place to stay in order for their son Jesus to be born. Many people denied them the entrance to their home and finally one family let them in their home. However, this family allowed them to stay in their barn. Catholics and many other Christian religions believe that this is the place where Jesus was born. 

Nowadays, Mexico has a tradition to have a reenactment of this occurrence. People get organized well in advance and decide who will be hosting the Posada and what day within the dates of 16 to the 24 of December. Every one of the nine families has the opportunity to host the Pilgrims each night. Once they have everything organized, they start with the first neighbor. They have a procession of people who are already chosen by everyone in the neighborhood. They choose one person for each character: Mary, Joseph, an Angel and the Three Wise Man. The Angel leads the procession, Mary and Joseph follow, some times with a real baby, and also a real donkey as it was believed that Mary and Joseph traveled by a donkey. The Three Wise Man follow the pilgrims and at the end the rest of the people follow the entire procession.

The pilgrims and every single person participates by sing from house to house a very popular song that I am including here: http://youtu.be/D6nwzpI-6UE. Everyone of the participants holds a lit candle and they sing out loud, some sing inside the homes as a reply to the pilgrims to let them know that they will not let them in and at the end the host family also sing the acceptance to let them in. When the family finally receives the pilgrims, they enter the home and start to enjoy some delicious Mexican traditional meal that typically consists of tamales, ponche (a hot beverage that seems very much like a sweet tea with real fruit consisting typically of guava, sugarcane, tejocotes, tangerines, Jamaica flower, sweeten with piloncillo or brow sugar, and cinnamon sticks – the entire recipe varies from home to home but typically consists of these ingredients), I am including an example of a recipe for Mexican ponche: http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/bebidasdrinks/r/ponche.htm . The families usually offer champurrado (hot corn based beverage), buñuelos (like the traditional “elephant ears” you find in summer carnivals in the US), and little bags with candy (goodie bags) that are called Aguinaldos. In this Posada there is always at least one piñata for everyone to break. The piñata is filled with candy and seasonal fruit, usually oranges, tangerines, sugarcanes, and peanuts. Here is a video that portrays in short what I explained: http://youtu.be/e3gZ0hAFIGA

My classes usually see in the part of Cultura around this time of the year when we learn about Christmas around the Hispanic countries. We reenact the procession and I bring real candles and we go from door to door in three different classrooms. I provide my students with the lyrics of the Posadas in English and Spanish. We sing them in Spanish. We previously assign groups that will bring the food. One group is in charge of finding the recipe for Ponche and they make it and bring it to class. Another group buy flour tortillas and fry them and pour cinnamon and sugar before they place them to dry, this food is to represent buñuelos. Another group make a piñata out of a balloon and fill it with candy. The day of our Posada we break it. Then I usually bring the tamales for everyone to enjoy. This is a great tradition to start in your classroom, and students will always remember that part of Christmas in Mexico. 

Here is the link of the lyrics to ask for Posada in English and Spanish: http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1552-mexican-tradition-pidiendo-posada

I found a link that explains how to make piñatas:

Here is a page where you can create your own vocabulary for Posadas. You can read it and listen to the phrases:

A crossword puzzle related to Posadas:

I hope that you have found this post to be helpful for your students.
¡Feliz Navidad! 

 (Mexican flag image form Wikipedia, all rights theirs)

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