Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday traditions of Mexico

December 12th is Dia de Guadalupe which is one of the most important celebrations of Mexico and Catholics around the world.
This time last year we were in La Cruz and the celebration started on Saturday the 11th and was celebrated with lots of festivities including activities around the town square across from the church, street parties and loud music until about 4 in the morning, along with what we call flash bang fireworks, sort of like a cannon, which are lit off from the afternoon until well into the wee hours of the morning. Here in Zihoutenejo they are selling fireworks on the street. They shoot them off randomly during the night they are pretty to watch and haven't kept us awake or frighten the dog. It is relatively quite in the bay here during this celebration or maybe we are just getting used to the music. There was actually an opera singer we could hear the other night. It was a nice change of pace.
So what was the celebration all about? My friend Carol from SvStrayCat found an article about the Virgin of Guadalupe I thought I would share.
“The Virgin of Guadalupe is the most famous and celebrated of all saints and she is also known as the “Virgen Morena” and is the patron saint of Mexico. Supposedly she was first encountered by an Aztec Indian, San Juan Diego, on the hill of Tepeyac now known as modern day Mexico City, in 1531, shortly after the conquest by the Spanish Conquistadors.   As the story goes he was on his way to a monastery and when passing the hill of Tepeyac he heard signing as the sky turned brilliant colors and at the end of the signing he heard a call from a woman. As he knelt before her she identified herself as the “consummate virgin Saint Mary, mother of the true deity, God, the giver of Life, the creator of all, the ever present lord of heaven and earth”. Then she then asked for a temple to be built on the site so that she could attend to the “weeping, sorrows and prayers” of all the people of the land.  While he tried to rely this sighting to the Bishop he had no proof and was afraid to offend the deity so he returned to the hill and once again he saw her and she told him to pick some Castilian Roses and return to the Bishop with the roses that were very uncommon to the area at that time. With this “miracle” the Bishop then believed Juan Diego’s story and shortly thereafter there was a Basilica built on that site in honor of The Virgin Guadalupe.  Dia de Guadalupe is more important for many Mexicans than Easter or Christmas and is celebrated with parades, pilgrimages and fiestas throughout much of Mexico and most of Latin America. In 1737 she was recognized as the patron Saint of Mexico City and eventually by 1946 to include all of the Americas. This day is to celebrate the love we give to the Virign de Guadalupe and is known to many as the day of Love (Amor).”
December 12th marks the beginning of the Christmas Posadas (festivals) and holidays all over Mexico and Latin America  Carol asked the family that runs a favorite week-end “tacos in the street” eatery.  She told her that after December 15th it gets harder and harder to conduct business or get services done as executives and employees travel to see their families in other parts of Mexico or the world (like the US).  The holiday festivities or Posadas will continue until the last day of Christmas which in Mexico is January 6th which is Epiphany or Three Kings Day (Dia de los Reyes).  This is where the 12 days of Christmas originates and many Mexican families still give one small gift every day from Christmas until the 6th. She said Posadas are sometimes just a family or a neighborhood and start with a candlelight procession and are often are all night celebrations like the one on the 11th.
The tacos in the street lady remembers as a young girl her family painting a dried Century plant silver for their Christmas tree.  Now she says her family has what we gringos would call a traditional artificial fir tree.  Of course poinsettias are plentiful here and are found everywhere.  Santa Claus is not a traditional figure here in Mexico but he is becoming more popular and some families open all their gifts on Christmas Eve after a big family dinner.  But rather it is more traditional here for children to write their wish list to the Three Wise Men and wait until January 6th to see if their wishes are granted.  Instead of leaving milk and cookies for Santa, they leave their shoes outside filled with hay for the camels. 
But wait there is more.  This will kind of remind you of Mardi Gras and King Cake and who gets the baby.  On January 6th families eat a sweetbread ring shaped cake with small bits of fruit and candy inside and a small plastic baby that represents the baby Jesus.  The person who receives the baby in their slice is responsible for giving a party and making tamales for the Fiesta de la Candelaria (Candles) on February 2nd, the last party of the Christmas season. 
And we didn’t talk about what happens for New Years?!!

All the details above where as I mentioned from my friend Carol and I wanted to log them in and the blog seemed the perfect spot. I love learning about peoples traditions and Carol somehow is really good at searching them out.

I received a DHL package today here in Zihoutenejo. It was my new credit card. I am thankful for the wonderful network of people that made it possible for me to dingy to shore and pick up a package at the little grass shack at the end of the pier, how amazing is that?

We haven't really figured out what we are doing for Christmas eve or Christmas day yet, just going with the flow. There are now 8 boats in and around the bay. The restaurants in town have posted some dinner specials which look good.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Zihoutenejo for the holidays

We left la Cruz December 1, 2011 right smack at the starting gun for this years Bandaras Bay Blast. Timing is everything right. Our destination Zihoutenejo for the holidays. We made a few stops along the way at Tenacatita and Las Hadas. The weather was warm and sunny for our trip but there was a lot of swell in the sea. I was a bit mal de mar. We saw jumping tuna, turtles, dolphins and of course a few fishing nets along the way. I really don't do to well with lack of sleep, I start hearing music that is not playing. In the past it was always The Magigal mystery tour, this trip I heard and old western tune (the one where the horses gallop).

Well we arrived here December 12 and put the anchor down for the holidays. This is our second visit to Zihoutenejo. We are familiar with most things in walking distance. The weather is warm, the water is warm 89 degrees. Doesn't really feel like Christmas. I took out my gallon size bag of decorations and was done decorating in about two minutes. I also found some solar Christmas type lights so they are outside on our solar panels, flashing!

We don't have any big plans, in fact no plans for Christmas. We are going to meet up with my sister in laws sister "Dorothy and her family" who frequently come to Zihoutenejo from the pacific northwest.

My friend Carol from Santa Rosa on board SVStraycat sent me this interesting news regarding the poinsettia plants that we see everywhere.

It seems like everywhere we go we see poinsettias – at the tienda (convenience store) ferreteria (hardware store) in the doorways and by the cash register, restaurants, offices, homes and even street taco stands as well as in the churches.  They are sold at markets and from the back of pick-up trucks. The plethora of poinsettias prompted us to inquire about their significance.  We were told the poinsettia was originally used by the Aztecs who called it “Cuetlaxochitle” (don’t ask me how to pronounce that). The Aztecs used the sap from the plants to reduce fevers and to make a reddish-purple dye.  It is said that Montezuma, the last Aztec King, brought the flowers from Southern Mexico in caravans to Mexico City because the poinsettia would not grow at the higher altitudes. 
In Mexico it is called “Flor del Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve Flower or literally Flower of the Good Night) or in Central America the “Flame Leaf.”  In North America it became known as the Poinsettia and was so named after Dr. Joel Poinsett, who was the first United States Ambassador to Mexico from 1825 to 1829.  The plants are native to the Taxco area in Mexico and while Dr. Poinsett was visiting the region he fell in love with the flowers and shipped some to his own nursery in Greenville, South Carolina where they were also given to several other nurseries to eventually be grown commercially.  The Poinsettia starts out with star shaped green leaves that turn into a deep red at the top.  Nowadays at home we see white ones, pink ones and variegated ones as well as the traditional red. 
Naturally there is a wonderful legend in Mexico as to how the flower became used to celebrate Christmas.  The story begins with a poor girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo (or cousin, Pedro, depending on who tells the story).  Maria was very sad because she was so poor she had nothing to give the baby Jesus in the manger scene in the Village Church.  On Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) on the way to church Maria picked some “weeds” to make a bouquet to leave at the manger scene.  Her little brother (or cousin) said to her, “it does not matter what you give as long you give it in love”.  Naturally the other children in the village teased them until they saw the “weeds” turn from green to a bright red right before their eyes as Maria knelt at the altar.  The whole village then realized they had witnessed a true Christmas miracle and from that day forward the plant became known as the “Flor del Noche Buena.”