In Mexico, Christmas begins on December 16. For nine days, in the villages and neighborhoods, posadas are organized, neighborhood parties reconstituting scenes of the Nativity. Mixture of religious faith and earthly celebrations, they are the scene of songs, prayers and not very Catholic libations. And then, above all, to the delight of the children, we break extravagant balls of abundance, the piñatas ...
Nine evenings for Joseph and Mary
If you travel to Mexico before Christmas, you are likely to be struck by large, seven-pointed star-shaped balls hanging from the end of a rope, in gardens or in front of houses. Far from being simple decorations like you find in Europe, these strange spheres, called piñatas, are part of the rites linked to the celebration of Christmas which, in Mexico, begins on December 16 with the posadas.
In Spanish, "posada" means "inn". The tradition of the posadas, which dates back to the XNUMXth century, commemorates the journey of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Along the way, they asked good Samaritans for hospitality to spend the night, and so they arrived safe and sound in Bethlehem.
During the nine days preceding Christmas, in the villages and the districts of Mexico, we “replay” the journey of Joseph and Mary. Processions bringing together residents of the community - and especially children - go to a neighbor to ask for hospitality (pedir posada) as Mary and Joseph did. Very often, these “pilgrims” reconstruct a Nativity scene (children can be disguised) by singing a religious song, with a candle and, sometimes, a statue of a saint in their hand. The rule is that the group goes to three houses in the neighborhood. Only the third will give them hospitality. Inside, the “pilgrims” will pray and perform Christmas carols. Before continuing the party ...
Break the piñata
The time of the posadas, synonymous with rejoicing with the neighborhood, illustrates the meaning of Mexican hospitality. Community celebration, the posada is based on the importance of giving and helping each other. At the same time, in the United States, Canada and Europe, it is rather at the doors of shopping centers that we will knock, confusing Christmas celebrations and festival of the cash drawer.
A sign of the particular religious fervor of Mexicans, the posadas also delight children. Indeed, after the prayer, they will have to break the famous piñatas. Originally the terracotta pots, today piñatas are large balls of papier-mâché or cardboard, decorated in extravagant colors, with all kinds of fruit and sweets inside. They are suspended at the end of a rope, between two trees, two facades or under an arch. They can even be hung on sticks held by people who move them so that they are difficult to reach. The children, blindfolded, must break them with sticks to release candies and other sweets.
What are the rules of the game? Under the cries of the assembly, the blindfolded participants are rotated several times on themselves to make the challenge even worse, by making them lose the notion of space. While the players take their turn to break the piñata, the guests sing a typical song: "Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino, porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino, la piñata tiene caca, caca , peanuts ”.... (“ Hit, hit, hit, don't lose the address, because if you lose it, you lose the way, in the piñata there is poo, poo, peanuts ”). Warm atmosphere guaranteed!
Breaking the piñata is more than a game. This tradition is linked to a rite of purification. The typical piñata is shaped like a star with seven branches, each one representing one of the seven deadly sins. By hitting it, we fight against sin and drive out temptation. The staff represents spiritual strength against evil and the blindfold represents blind faith. As for the fruits, sugars, toys and sweets that fall from the piñata, they symbolize the love of God and abundance.
A good religious marketing stunt
Dear traveler, the mystery of the Mexican spheres has been elucidated. There is still a question: why do Mexicans start the Christmas holidays on December 16? Originally, there was a good “religious marketing” stunt. We must not forget that at the beginning of the colonization of Mexico, the Christian faith was in competition with the Aztec traditions. However, from December 7 to 26, the latter celebrated the birth of the god of war Huitzilopochtli. In 1586, Dominican friar Diego de Soria, from the village of San Agustin Acolman (40 km from Mexico City), obtained from Pope Sixtus V a bull that authorized him to celebrate masses and to reconstruct scenes of the nativity from 16 to December 24. The objective: to thwart the Aztec festivals. The posadas, by their festive and theatrical character, met with the success that we know. According to some historians, nine were retained to symbolize the nine months of Mary's pregnancy.
The piñata was also introduced to Mexico by the Spaniards. Its name comes from the Italian “pignatta” which means “fragile earthenware pot”. Initially, the posadas took place in the church. Today, it is above all a private matter, which is settled between neighbors. The religious has somewhat taken a back seat, even if the ritual has its roots in the Bible. It is, above all, a friendly neighborhood party where we drink and have a lot of fun. To attend, you better have Mexican friends who invite you. The posadas are spontaneous and, therefore, authentic. They are the expression of the joyful, almost pagan faith of the Mexicans. And then, if you're in the audience, expect to be blindfolded to hit the piñata. "Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino…"
- Go to Mexico for the posadas and Christmas celebrations: price from € 790 with Lufthansa (stopover in Frankfurt) or American Airlines (stopover in the United States) and from € 1 for a direct flight with Aeromexico
- Very complete site on the history of Christmas celebrations in Mexico produced by the University of Guadalajara. Internet: http://mexico.udg.mx
- From December 16 to 23, if you pass through the town of Acolman, between Mexico City DF and Teotihuacan, do not miss the posada and piñata fair: the artisans exhibit clay or cardboard piñatas… You can even try to create your own! Internet: www.visitmexicopress.com.
- Make your own piñata with the help of the site www.kutchuk.com.