My Cuento Navideño

By Monica Rodriguez

Latinos love tradition, and Christmas is definitely one to celebrate con córazon y alma. Although some might say Christmas in Mexico is summed up by nativities, traditions and tamales; others might say it is all about the food, family and felicidad. Either way, a Mexican Christmas is definitely one to remember and it starts with the family traditions carried among all generations. My family is originally from Mexico and my childhood was filled with memorable Mexican traditions. I’d like to share a piece of my childhood Cuento Navideño, with you all today as we get ready highly anticipated Christmas season ahead.

While some grow up with chestnuts by the open fire I remember growing up with the smell of buñuelos frying in the pan while my abuela would have one eye on her sweets and the other on my cousins and me over by the presents under the tree. The three main Mexican Christmas traditions I always carry with me from my childhood are the poinsettia, la posada and the piñata.

The poinsettia is a flower found in Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs used to use the poinsettia’s bright red leaves to dye their fabrics and to heal people. They believed that the plant’s iconic red color symbolized purity and therefore was used in religious ceremonies. Traditionally known as La Flor de Nochebuena, the poinsettia is used to decorate homes and churches for the Christmas season because as legend has it, it is one of many Christmas miracles. My mother used to tell me the tale every time we bought the plant before Christmas. The story is about a poor girl who tried to find something worthy to offer baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. The tale says that instead of flowers, the girl could only bring weeds. The minute she walked into the church, the weeds turned into a beautiful red plant that is now known as the poinsettia.

La posada translates to an Inn or Lodge. It is a reenactment of the biblical story of Mary and Joseph’s journey in search of a room before the birth of baby Jesus. Traditionally there are a total of nine Posadas, but all the members of my family accounted for the majority of a small town, so we would travel to each room of the house singing to each other and showcasing our Broadway debuts. At the end of the Posada, all of the cousins and I would end our journey  to the much awaited piñata and take turns to break it open for a taste of the other Christmas treats that lay ahead.

Like all Christmases, amor, familia y tradición make up the meaning behind Christmas. This Christmas season, spice things up and try out a Mexican Christmas tradition with your family and friends! If you’re looking for some family activities around the fire, here are a few children’s books to read this Christmas season, below are two from my childhood that tell the story of some of the Mexican Christmas traditions I have shared with you today:

Photo: Scholastic
This book retells an old Mexican folktale with a girl named Lucida and her town’s traditions.

Photo: American Girl
Josefina’s Surprise is the third book of the Josefina American Girl Series and is also available in Spanish.

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