DECEMBER 12th -A Holy Day in Mexico & Latinamerica which celebrates the VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE. She represents THE VIRGIN MARY and TONANTZIN-the Aztec Goddess of Fertility. The Virgen of Guadalupe is the PATRON SAINT OF MEXICO,and EMPERATRIZ DE LAS AMERICAS" (EMPRESS OF THE AMERICAS). This special day starts with an early mass filled with mariachis and continues all day as pilgrims from all over Mexico arrive at the Church LA BASILICA DE GUADALUPE where the legend states she first appeared to the INDIAN JUAN DIEGO. This day celebrates the DIVINE POWER & BEAUTY of women all over Latinamerica.
CHRISTMAS IN MEXICO: is the biggest holiday of the year. While the roots of LA NAVIDAD are Catholic, the German Tradiditions of the Christmas Tree, Santa Claus & presents have also been adopted, blending LAS NAVIDADES into a magical time of festivities.
In villages & pueblos, LAS POSADAS start 9 days before Christmas Day, they are processions on the street carrying the figures of MARIA & JOSE from the church to a neighbor's house, recreating their journey to find shelter to birth El NINO JESUS (The Baby Jesus) . A different neighbor hosts the statues each night and a celebration with tamales, traditional drinks, the breaking of a pinata and the singing of Christmas carols follows. THE POSADAS culminate on DEC 24th -NOCHEBUENA(CHRISTMAS EVE) where families attend mass and share a traditional dinner and SE SIENTA EL NINO JESUS, the Baby Jesus is placed under the Christmas Tree. Gifts are also opened on the 24th, but the main focus is on family, community, peace & goodwill.
The POINSETTA Flower called NOCHEBUENA is Mexico's contribution to our modern Christmas. An AZTEC Flower CUETLAXOCHITL, it was cultivated by priests for symbolizing "New Life". Poinsettas grow wild in the Mexican states of Chiapas, Oaxaca & Guerrero during November & December. Mr. Joel Poinsett, US embassador to Mexico first brought the seeds to the US in 1828.
The January 6- DIA de REYES -DAY OF THE EPIPHANY/THREE KINGS celebration marks the official end of the Christmas festivities and when all the Christmas decorations are taken down
DIA DE REYES/ DAY OF THE THREE KINGS:
6 de ENERO/ JANUARY 6 -This holy day represents the day the Three Kings arrived at the site of the Baby Jesus' birth. They came bearing gifts of Gold, Myhrr and Frankincense. Before this day, children write letters to the 3 Kings requesting the gifts they would like (though gifts from Santa Claus is now common in Mexico this is a European & American influence, traditionally gifts were given to children on Jan 6th). The letters can be released in a balloon or stuffed in a shoe, next to the shoes kids can also leave gifts like carrots, peanuts or water for the 3 King's camels.
A traditional bread ROSCA DE REYES is eaten. Inside the bread are toy dolls symbolizing the Baby Jesus, the person who gets the doll in their slice of cake gets to host a party on FEBRUARY 2 DIA de la CANDELARIA , on this day the Baby Jesus is dressed and brought to the church to be "presented". After Jan 6th, the Christmas tree and decorations are taken down as this is the official end of NAVIDAD in Mexico.
CHRISTMAS IN THE UNITED STATES:
Many European pagan practices were absorbed into our modern AMERICAN CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE -The Germanic tribes worshipped THE EVERGREEN ~ a symbol of eternal life. A tree that could survive the harsh winters symbolized faith.
THE MISTLETOE came from the Druids, of what would later be France and England who revered an oak parasite associated with fertility. It is still believed it is lucky to kiss under the mistletoe.
THE FRUITCAKE originated during the Crusades when the European soldiers sent home the wonderful dried fruits of the Muslim East. The custom of putting "sugar plum" in the stockings of good children also dates from the Crusades.
THE YULE LOG- This Tradition has its roots in another Druid custom. On Winter Solstice night, to show the sun how to come back a flaming wheel will be rolled down a hill. This flaming wheel ceremony is still found in remote parts of Europe.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRISTMAS LIGHTS Light is associated with wisdom. Living in darkness is a symbol of fear & ignorance. Part of the Christian lore of light at this darkest time of year has always meant living in Godís light.
THE BIRTH OF JESUS symbolises a divine spirit entering the Earth as a light that guides and a love that blesses. May the inner light of Christmas always be with you.