We come from the Midwestern part of the United States. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter – they all happen there. I’ve discovered living in this tropical climate means there are only two seasons, hot and less hot. Or humid and less humid. Which means my climate cues on the changing of the season and the accompanying holidays is all off. It has been so foreign for me to see Christmas trees erected everywhere and the store shelves lined with toys and decorations while I’m walking around in shorts and flip flops. It also means it’s been a bit hard for to get into the spirit of the season. Luckily we’ve discovered that Mexico loves throwing a good Christmas party called a posada and we’ve attended several recently that have helped get me in the Christmas mood.
In fact lately it’s been party, party, party here. I absolutely LOVE it. Some of the parties have had what are more familiar elements to me like Santa Claus, Christmas trees, gift exchanges and toy drives for kids.
Others parties have included Mexican traditions that are foreign to me, but I am quickly growing to love. In particular, the posada our friends recently invited us to was such fun and I learned so much from them. Typically Christmas posadas start on December 16 and are held on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas. Yes, there are posadas for nine nights in a row. Like I said, party, party, party!
Traditional posadas typically include a processions with candles to one person’s home. Some people stand outside and sing and the people on the inside respond. The song goes back and forth until the people inside let the people on the outside in. Of course it makes sense that this is a tradition in a warmer climate, if I was standing outside someone’s house in Kansas City in December and they wouldn’t let me in until I’d sang enough – well I’d probably lose a few extremities to frostbite.
We didn’t do the singing part of the posada I went to, but we tried to follow the rest of the celebration starting with the food. Oh the delicious food!
Our host, Vanessa, also made traditional ponche, a sweet, hot, delicious fruit punch that has a few variations. Vanessa made her own family’s recipe that included jamaica juice, piloncillo (a kind of sugar), and loads of fruit. Of course we added a bit of rum – it’s completely optional.
The festivities included a gift exchange that was a mixture of nice, and not so nice gifts. How many gifts you got involved a game involving a rolling of dice. I have no idea how someone can be so bad at a game of chance, but I was seriously horrible at it. I’m going to practice for next year.
And no posada is complete without the pinata. We volunteered to bring the pinata although immediately after agreeing I panicked. What do I know about posadas and pinatas? This was a big responsibility. What color should it be? What shape? How big? What do I put inside? Traditionally pinatas are shaped with seven points that represent sins. When blindfolded and beating on the pinata you’re beating sin out, or something similar, and when the pinata breaks and the goods inside fall out this is your reward for overcoming sin (sorry if I didn’t get this quite right, my hosts who were explaining the history to me had, as I mentioned, been drinking the ponche as I had I, this was my interpretation).
One of the main things that posadas have in common with the Christmas parties I’m used to is time spent talking, laughing and catching up with family and friends. We thank the friends we have made here in Playa del Carmen for welcoming us into their homes, introducing us to their traditions and helping us get into the Christmas spirit.