Christmas is a time of traditions in Mexico and I realized when starting to write this that they can be broken down in 4 Ps; Posadas, Piñatas, Ponche and Pavo. Four really super things that give Christmas it’s spark over here.
Posadas can be seen all around Mexico in the week leading up to Christmas. The word posada means inn in Spanish and a posada is a reenactment of Joseph and Mary arriving in Bethlehem looking for a place to stay. Posadas are a group or community affair, with the group splitting into two, half representing the innkeepers, who stay inside, and the others representing Mary and Joseph who stay outside. Those outside carry candles and sing a song requesting a room. The inn- keepers sing a response that says they have no room and this continues until finally the innkeeper says he has a stable where Mary and Joseph can stay and the door is opened and the group outside enters singing words of gratitude and a fiesta ensues.
At the Christmas posadas it is traditional to have a piñata shaped like a star, representing the star of Bethlehem that signaled the birth of Jesus. The Christmas piñata is filled with fruits, like tejocotes, guavas and limas, along with pieces of sugar cane. Traditionally sweets and toys are not added, like at other times of the year and many Mexican adults I know found the Christmas piñata a real disappointment when they were kids, and by the way they talk about it still, the disappointment hasn’t yet faded! The problem for me with the Christmas piñata is the amount of squashed fruit that ends up in a soggy mess on the floor.
Ponche is like the Mexican equivalent to Mulled wine for Brits, the very smell of it signifies Christmas. Ponche is a sweet, spiced, hot drink made with many of the ingredients of the Christmas piñata (hopefully not the soggy bits from the floor) and is deliciously warming on chilly winter evenings! Fruits are added to boiling water spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with unrefined sugar cane (piloncillo). It is served with a raw stick of sugar cane to chew on if it isn’t sweet and lovely enough and for adults a drop of tequila or other spirits can be added too.
So it turns out turkeys are Mexican! Check out Chido Bueno’s blog to find out more. Like us Brits, Mexican’s often eat Turkey for the Christmas dinner, dished up on the night of Christmas Eve (Noche Buena), but served with a spicy mole sauce. Also traditional is Bacalao, salted cod served with capers and olives and Romeritos, which is a spriggy, rosemary lookalike, with a subtler taste served with dried prawn and potato patties. To please those of us with a sweet tooth, buñuelos, which are like a sweet, sugary, cinnamony tostada dripping in a sweet syrup made from unrefined sugar cane and guava are also traditionally associated with Christmas and are a really tasty treat!
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, BBC Travel, The Independent UK, Afar and The New Worlder among others. Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.