To say I am ambivalent about the Christmas season is not quite right. I really can’t remember outright enjoying it for years. As a full-fledged aging adult, most of the time I feel like at least outwardly I can make my way with some optimism and take pleasure in what there is to enjoy in life. But Christmas remains a dilemma. Over the years since the kids have grown, both the years they’ve visited have been mixed experiences I think for all of us. I’ve tried a variety of approaches to the holiday, none of which have been truly successful and I’ve always awakened with the feeling a burden has been lifted when the holidays are over.
Although no matter what I want to see our kids, his year, Mexico took care of providing us with a new version of the holiday, one which distracted us at least somewhat from the blues. Here in our area, there are lots of the ordinary signs of Christmas in stores large and small: extra hours, sales, lots of junk loaded on shelves, decorations. But all that seemed almost beside the point in our Colonia. The biggest December celebration – literally the biggest bang for the buck was la Fiesta de la Virgén de Guadalupe, on the 12th, which I wrote about earlier. But the Christmas season was perhaps more extraordinary and certainly not anticlimactic.
Starting on December 16, the Colonia partook of Las Posadas and a little more. Every evening just before sundown, groups of children would come to the door one holding a large bare branche decorated with bits of glitter. They would sing, shaking containers which held a few pesos to give themselves a percussion accompaniment. They were charming. When they were done, if you rewarded them with a few centavos, they sang a thank-you song. Sometimes they rang our bell quite insistently, but invariably they were smiling and polite and their voices were united and clear and strong in the well-learned songs. A lot of them were kids we knew, and knowing we were smiling at each other because we knew each other was quite wonderful.
There were a few special highlights. One was watching a much older brother squatting or maybe father squatting outside his front door and playing a guitar as he taught an adorable tiny girl to sing. Another was a boy we met on the street who sang while his little sister hid behind him peeking out from time to time. Finally, Rosi, Blanca’s younger sister, appeared solo at our gate and sang for us. She had a lovely voice. She was apparently too shy to join a crowd of kids and go around the neighborhood.
I am not sure what this all symbolizes. I asked Guillermo, but he wasn’t too sure, either. I will have to inquire further. It does occur to me it has to do with the Jesse tree – the branch of Jesse from which Jesus is said to come. Many years ago, in Episcopal churches we attended, the children decorated a bare branch – a Jesse tree – as part of our Advent worship.
The enactment of the Posadas was a colonia-wide event. Every house was supposed to donate thirty pesos which went to the food for each night’s party. For each night, a group of neighbors on a particular street prepared food and brought it to the designated house. At six there would be a misa, (announced of course with a bomba) and after the misa, the congregation would walk through the streets with candles, singing songs. Neighbors who hadn’t attended the misa would join in. At the head of the procession were a boy carrying a good-sized statue of Joseph and a girl carrying Mary. At first we couldn’t find the procession in the darkened streets, but then it was there: solemn, singing voices and flickering candles. We joined in and walked to a house down one of the dirt streets. Out front, the “posada” was all lit up and festive. To the accompaniment of the songs, the kids put Mary and Joseph in their respective places. Shortly thereafter, the doors were flung open and we were all served sandwiches and a delicious hot punch made of all kinds of fruits. There were a few bombas to mark the event, but not more than I could stand.
Jim and I both attempted to take a few pictures. Jim says his didn't really come out, but they sure came out better than mine, and I think they will give you an idea of a Posada. The first picture is looking toward "the posada" as the procession gathered. The second shows the two children with the statues; the third, Mary and Jospeh in the Posada; the fourth, some of the balloons strung overhead interspersed with Spanish moss; the final one is a picture of the Virgen de Guadalupe shrine our friend Adriana had in front of her store. Notice the eye at La Virgén's feet.