Christmas of 2016 was not to be my first Christmas in Mexico, as I spent the festive period with some of my family in 2013. However this was the first Christmas I spent with Paco and his family.
I´m not going to lie, I was anxious as to how it was going to be as it was the first time that the whole family was going to be together and it was the first Christmas that they were going to have without his grandparents (as sadly they both passed away this past year). Coupled with this, I knew that the family didn’t drink and I´m used to boozy affairs and funny games, not where I was going to have to be on best behaviour and speaking Spanglish.
So, we took a 6 hour car journey from Mexico City to Lagos de Moreno in the state of Jalisco with the 2 of us and his mum and 2 aunts. The time passed smoothly courtesy of the Christmas CD that my mum and dad had sent over!
Lagos (in Mexico, not to be confused with Africa!) is famous for the number of writers and poets that were born there. The small city is a key hub for agriculture including dairy, meats, leather and agriculture. As you can therefore imagine, as a spin off from this, it is true cowboy/rodeo (charro) territory, many of the men strut their stuff walking around in cowboy boots and cowboy hats! It was darn groovy!
Above: Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco
Unlike the UK where we celebrate Christmas on 24th, 25th and 26th December (and pretty much up until 1st January), in Mexico, Christmas is celebrated at midnight on 24th December (going into the early hours of the 25th) with a big meal with the family. This usually consists of roasted pavo (turkey), salads, mole, bacalao (cod – love this dish!), bread, potatoes, pasta and whatever else is served. Deserts are limited, nothing like Christmas puds, mince pies, trifle or Christmas cake. So it is fair to say the Mexican Christmas dinners are better for the waist line!
The Mexicans have their own version of a festive drink like mulled wine (except without the red wine!?), it is called Ponche. It is made of fruits, sugar (lots of it), fruits- such as guava and oranges), with the base being made of Jamaica (a drink made of dried hibiscus), in addition to spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
Of course Christmas in Mexico would not be complete without some piñata fun with the family.
Before all of the above, the evening is started off with a ´Posada´ which is a Christmas celebration (originating in Latin America). From the nativity story a tradition was born, in countries like Mexico and Guatemala. The nine nights before Christmas (representing the nine months of gestation) are known as Las Posadas, which are celebrated with prayer, Christmas carols (Villancicos), and musical re-enactments of Mary and Joseph’s search for a stable. We simply sang a couple of songs whilst holding candles.
Whilst different to the traditions that I am accustomed to in the UK, this year´s Christmas made a pleasant change and was interesting to learn new traditions with a lovely and welcoming family.