Sunday, November 25, 2012

"My special Christmas" by Raymundo Valdez

"La Piñata" by Diego Rivera
Christmas season is my favorite time of the year. It's not so much for the holiday itself, but for the fact that I get to travel back to my country to see my loved ones. Christmas in Mexico can be very religious because for Catholics, it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and people in Mexico take it very seriously. This special holiday is full of symbols and rituals like the Posadas (Shelters) and the Mexican Christmas piñata, for example.

My first stop is to go Christmas shopping here in San Francisco, because my family loves presents from the U.S. My nephews are the ones that enjoy those presents the most. After I have everything, I pack my bags and travel to Mexico City, where my
family lives. As soon as I get there, I visit all my good friends to catch up. I really miss them. During those days before Christmas, I really enjoy putting up the Christmas decorations teaming up with my nephews.

They have a lot of fun with it; we put up the Christmas tree, the Christmas lights, and the nativity. I like to do those activities too, especially because we have a nice bonding time together. I also like going to the posadas every day until the 24th. The posadas are special "parties" to celebrate (and re-create) the 12 stops that Joseph and Mary had to make before having their child, so we re-create the scenes, chant posada's songs and have delicious tamales and atole (a sweet and hot Mexican beverage made out of corn) with neighbors, friends and family members.

On Christmas. day I wake up early to help with the long dinner preparation. My siblings are in town too, so it really feels like back in the days when we were children. My sister prepares the turkey stuffing while my brother marinates the turkey in white wine. Mom starts the Mexican Christmas punch by boiling all kinds of seasonal Mexican fruits. That is when the yummy smell of it takes over the house. The smell is so good and to me, it is really the symbol of Christmas.

By the evening, the celebration starts! By 6:00 pm all my relatives arrive to my parents house. Everyone brings a special Christmas dish to enjoy later at dinner. My aunt brings Bacalao (Dry Cod fish) and my grandmother brings the Romeritos (Mojave seablite herbs prepared with Mole sauce and dry shrimp biscuits). Both dishes are so delicious!

Before dinner, we have some Mexican ponche, share stories, and catch up with all family members. After dinner, we toast and wish everybody happiness. At this point, we are ready to open presents. My nephews are always first, and because they are the little ones, they get a lot of presents from everyone. Then, we start with the "Secret Santa" like gift giving, and everyone gets a present.

By midnight, we are ready to break the piñata! The children go first while adults watch but some of us participate in the piñata breaking too. Tradition says that the piñata represents the devil and his luring to get us to sin. By breaking the piñata, we are "destroying" devil's temptations and because of that, we are rewarded with sweet small fruits like crab apples, jicama, sugar cane, oranges, Mexican candy, and peanuts. After that, women in the house rock baby Jesus and everyone has a great time.

Lastly, the children go to bed and the adults stay and start dancing to salsa and disco music until dawn. It is so great to see my loved ones during this holiday. That's why I love this time of the year.

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