As you can see by our cover photo, the intrepid Yucatán Today team came across a very special traveler in Progreso the other day! In case you are not so fortunate, don’t worry. There are many wonderful Christmas traditions you can enjoy here in Yucatán.
Christmas festivities begin on December 16 with posadas, nine consecutive days of candlelight processions and lively parties. Throughout Mexico, young people gather in the afternoons to reenact the holy family’s quest for a place to sleep in Bethlehem.
Shepherds’ plays are staged throughout the holiday season by both amateur and professional groups, and at schools throughout the region. The light, humor-filled Pastorelas tell of the shepherds’ adoration of the Christ Child.
Holiday festivities on Christmas Eve include a traditional family Christmas supper which may feature a simple fare of homemade tamales or a more exotic feast of bacalao a la vizcaina (Biscayan cod), roast turkey, ham, or suckling pig. Afterwards, families head to church for Midnight Mass. The evening is rounded out with the opening of gifts and, for the children, piñatas and sparklers. December 25th is set aside as a day to rest and enjoy that universal holiday bonus — leftovers.
While both artificial and real Christmas trees are popular here, in most Mexican homes the principal holiday decoration is el nacimiento (nativity scene). The focal point is a “stable” where clay or plaster figurines of the Holy Family are sheltered. The scene may be further populated by an angel, the Magi, an ox, shepherds and their flocks, and assorted other people and livestock. The scene will not be completed until late on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning, when the newborn Baby Jesus is finally laid in the manger bed.
December 28, Day of the Holy Innocents, is a religious commemoration of King Herod’s ordering of the slaughter of all male infants in his kingdom, intended to include the Christ Child. In Mexico it is celebrated as a day akin to April Fool’s Day, an occasion for jokes and pranks.
On December 31, the new year is welcomed in much the same way as in other parts of the world. In Mérida, the family usually spends the evening together until midnight. After a family midnight dinner, the young people get together and celebrate with friends.
Los Reyes Magos
The Christmas season continues until January 6 (Epiphany), which is called Día de Los Reyes (Three Kings Day). Echoing the arrival in Bethlehem of Wise Men bearing gifts for the baby Jesus, children throughout Mexico anxiously await waking up January 6 to find toys and gifts left by the Three Kings. A special treat served on this day is the Rosca de Reyes, a round, crown-shaped sweet bread decorated with jewel-like candied fruits.
From all of us at Yucatán Today, including the man in the red suit, we wish you a very happy holiday!
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