My First Mexican Christmas

Matthew Kirk
Written by Mat Kirk

Christmas in Mexico

Christmas has always been a favorite time of the year for me. I guess I'm lucky to have so many wonderful memories from my childhood that come flooding back each year when I see the twinkling lights or catch a brief whiff of pine needles on a cold frosty morning. I remember the "crunch" of the crisp white snow underfoot and sledging with my dad and sister, all piled on the same sled, hurtling down the hills at what seemed like breakneck speeds. So, as you can imagine, after growing up in England, I was a little apprehensive during the run up to my first Christmas in what was now my new home, Santa Anita Huiloac, in the tiny state of Tlaxcala.

Christmas in MexicoWell, I need not have worried, as my first Christmas here and every single one of them since, have all felt like the most wonderful of my life. Different to what I was used to, yes, but the same feelings of joy, happiness and love that prevail at this time of the year, were all definitely ever-present. I remember being stood in the center of town, simply in awe of the abundance of colors. Whichever way I turned pinatas fluttered lazily in the warm winter sun, the bright red of the poinsettias filled the store windows and the cheery calls of the street vendors announced that the festive period was upon us.

Christmas in MexicoOne thing is for sure, here in Mexico they like to make the most of the festive season and begin the celebrations as soon as possible. They start things off on the 16th December with the first of nine Posadas. For those who are not familiar with Posadas, they consist of all the neighbors getting together and deciding whose house will be visited each night. They then have a procession in the evenings, where everyone carries little candles and sings a simple song asking to let Mary and Joseph in. On the 24th, Nochebuena, the procession arrives at the final house, the doors are opened and the big "fiesta" really begins!

Christmas in MexicoMy first posada ended at my wife's cousin's house, an old hacienda decorated to the nines, on the edge of town. As we entered I was astounded at the size of the tree, although more so at the intricately decorated nativity scene that seems to play a very significant role in Mexican Christmases. The smell of home-cooking filled the air and the hot ponche (a spicy blend of winter fruits, cinnamon and sugar cane) warmed our cold fingers and our souls. For me, coming from a small family, it was a fantastic site to see so many people all related in one room. There were brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, in-laws, grandpas and more. Young and old were all chatting together, singing songs and laughter filled the air; it's true what they say, Mexicans really do still have a wonderful family spirit of togetherness.

Christmas in MexicoAfter probably a little too much tequila, we tottered giddily back down the lane to my wife's house. At this point it's around 10.30pm and I was thinking it was time for bed, little did I know! Now, here's another big difference between England and Mexico. Unlike us, who celebrate with a big dinner on the 25th at midday, here they eat a veritable feast on the eve of the 24th at midnight! Out came a huge Turkey with all the trimmings, a big dish of a somewhat salty and fishy concoction called Bacalao, a huge pot of apple salad, and friends and family seemed to, once again, appear from nowhere. We exchanged presents, ate and drank merrily into the early hours of the morning, until the last stragglers finally went home and sleep crept upon us.

Christmas in MexicoAll in all it was a fabulous holiday. Ok, the food and customs may be a little different and the location, in the rolling hills of Tlaxcala, was definitely an eye opener, but overall my first Christmas in Mexico wasn't that far removed from any other. Presents were exchanged, to much food was eaten, friends and family stopped by to wish us "Feliz Navidad" and, finally, being surrounded by the people I love most in the world, well that's the best Christmas present anyone could receive.