24 December, 2013

Mexican Christmas Traditions

Cheesy family pictures in front of the Christmas tree are a must!
We were so excited to be closing up the shop for the week to head to Mexico City to spend the holidays with our family there.  One of our regular customers commented "I want to spend the holidays with YOUR family because I want to see what you DO."  It hadn't really occurred to me that Mexican traditions were so different.
 I figured those were just the traditions of Boris family being different from my family.  So I did a little bit of research for ya'll and thought that I would talk about some of the traditions celebrated here in Mexico for Christmas.

Most important to know is that Mexicans celebrate Christmas EVE and then Christmas DAY is a time to spend alone in the house with the "nuclear family."  Also, Santa Clause is not the guys the kids write for their presents.  Santa is more of a "Hallmark" icon and not really something that you can use to black mail your kids into eating their veggies with.  In modern days Santa has gotten a little more attention, but not like in the States.  We saw a Santa at the mall in San Miguel snoring like a lumberjack while his "tiny helpers" fiddled with their cell phones like a couple of zombies.  The kids in Mexico write to the Three Kings for their presents, and those come on January 6th.... but that is another blog post!

Smashing the PiƱata for the Posadas
December unfolds like this in Mexico...  Posadas run from December 16 to 23.  (I am not going to write about those here, there are hundreds of posts and Youtube videos about them.  They are mostly a Catholic tradition.)  

Gathering ingredients for Christmas Dinner

Christmas Eve is a full day of cooking, cleaning and preparing for family to come over.  Houses are decorated, Christmas trees, lights, nativity scenes.  One thing that I find different about the decorations is that moss, succulents and flowers are used to decorate the nativity and around the tree.  It adds a very beautiful and natural look among the false bulbs and lights. 

Natural elements add something spectacular to the nativity scene

The table is set

Christmas dinner is served VERY late.  Example, this year we are eating an "early" dinner at 10pm!  The traditional meal consists of Romeritos* and Bacalao*.  Then of course Ponche which we have talked about in previous posts.  

Gathering ingredients for the Ponche

Chopping Fruit to make the Ponche

Ponche simmering away

It tastes as good as it smells!

Romeritos are a pre-Hispanic wild herb that is served in mole and usually with shrimp.  The shrimp can be dried, made into cakes or whole...depending on the family recipe.  

Romeritos are a wild herb native to Mexcio,
 they are trimmed from the hefty stalks and then boiled to prepare them for the mole

Romeritos blanched and ready for the next step

My sister in law preparing the mole, peeling the new potatoes
and creating the dried shrimp cakes known as tortas
Adding the Tortas de Camaron, Shrimp cakes, to the Mole and Romeritos

Romeritos ready for Christmas dinner

Bacalao is a salted fish (similar to Cod, many recipes use Cod as an alternative ingredient because it is a lot cheaper) that comes from Spain.  All of the ingredients in the recipe are originally from Spain.  It has things like Spanish Olive Oil, Marcona Almonds, Olives, Tomatoes and a yellow chile that they call Chile Guerro... among many other ingredients that again vary depending on the family recipe,

Sauteing the tomatoes, onions and garlic in Spanish Olive Oil

The base is nearly ready with all the savory ingredients

Now to add the de-salted Bacalao (a three day process)

***I have attached a couple of links if you want to see an example of the recipes.  As with many traditions recipes vary from household to household and generation to generation.  It would be impossible to show you just one recipe and say that is what represented these dishes.

Then at midnight, in Catholic families, a lullaby is sung while rocking the baby Jesus from the nativity scene.  Watch video above to hear the song. This is why the dinner is served so late.  Some time during the night gifts are exchanged among family members (remember no Santa).  Games are played, year in review gossip is exchanged and the general company of your loved ones is enjoyed.

Merry Christmas from the Olvera Family

Christmas day is a time to rest and enjoy your family.  A late Brunch of Tortas de Bacalao is always a good idea!  Tamales and Atole are also a nice tradition.

In the next couple of days I will add a post for some of the fun superstitions that we do in our family on New Years Eve to insure a year filled with good fortune, health and love.  It is a lot of fun!

Christmas traditions around the world – HHH challenge
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