“Las Posadas” in Mexico begin on December 16th and continue until Christmas Eve. Like many festivities in this country, these nine nights have religious origins commemorating the peregrination of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where their child Jesus was born in a manger. However since the XVIII Century the nine nights are primarily social occasions. Las Posadas are celebrated in a myriad of ways by various collections of friends, colleagues and relatives.
In many neighbourhoods, large groups re-enact Maria and Jose´s journey by going from house to house, asking for a room at the inn. They are turned away time and time again, until one good soul allows the group to enter. At that point, there is more singing, great rejoicing, a few prayers and then snacks are served. Quite often these include tamales, rice pudding and caballeros pobres (rounds of bread prepared like French toast, then soaked in sweet syrup) The party ends with a shower of sweet candy pouring from a battered piñata.
Las Posadas are also popular dates for weddings, company parties and get-togethers with friends. On Christmas Eve the posadas traditionally end with midnight mass. After the religious observance is completed, an elaborate meal is enjoyed, gifts are exchanged and MORE partying goes on until sunrise.
If 2020 was a “normal” year, the first posada would have fallen on a Friday. Jorge and I would probably have been celebrated with our students at our annual Night of Carolling. TTT’s students and teachers are a talented lot, and every year the groups compete for the most original interpretation of a carol. And we have sure had some doozies! One year I had to pinch myself at the juxtaposition of cultures. A group of Mexican-born students from the Japanese language class sang “Silent Night” with their Okinawa-born teacher in her native language. She also helped them to sew simple kimonos and to pen the carol’s title on their song books, in traditional characters.
Saturday morning, Day 2 of las posadas, Jorge and I would have hosted the traditional TTT Staff breakfast at a downtown hotel. After eating way too much at the buffet, we would have continued with a gift exchange. One year I received a silk shawl, embossed with a Frida portrait. That night, we probably would have attended a wedding… and sometimes multiple weddings. Many receptions are held at Yucatan’s sumptuous haciendas and hotels. These amazingly huge parties always go on until dawn.
Sunday we usually do not commit to attending Posada Number 3… we know from past experience that we’ll need the day to recover from Posada Number 2. Posada Number 4, would often be the afternoon Jorge and I host the International Women’s Club Tea… an event I love. Tuesday, Number 6 and Wednesday Number 7, we like to spend with close friends.
Christmas Eve, after Mass we always celebrated with Jorge’s mom at her house, and once she passed away, the big family dinner moved to his brother’s home.
I have always made it a point to accommodate myself to Yucatan’s customs and traditions, as best I can. But December 25th I revel in those I grew up with, and our guests do too. After all, food and sentiment transcend borders. Christmas Day, at our home has traditionally been the “Canadian Christmas in Merida”… and I go all-out. We often have 40 assorted friends and family for a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings. The loose collection of foreign-born friends I invite always say goodbye with nostalgia brimming in their eyes.
But alas, none of this is happening in quite the same way this year, This is 2020, the pandemic is in full swing and all of the above is verboten. Christmas dinner will be just Jorge and me, my son Carlos and his lovely girlfriend, Yesi (pronounced like Jessy). We aren’t even having turkey. In 2020, the lead-up festivities looked like they would not happen at all. But then Jorge and I came up with an idea… we are re-living the four and a half decades of our posadas through music and movies.
I mentioned earlier that the Saturday posada is usually when we attend a wedding… Well, last night we had none to go to, so we remembered our own. We looked at our photos and Spotify played many of the tunes popular in 1977. At our reception, we had two wedding dance tunes (one in English & uno en español) They were, “If” by Bread and “Eres Tu” by Mocedades. Tomorrow for the Sunday posada night we might watch “Prancer”. Of all the kid’s Christmas moves we took Carlos & Maggie to see through the 1980s, that one was our favourite. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, we’ll have other posadas for just the two of us. Maybe a Disco Posada or a Mariachi Posada? And then what? Well, we’ll see…
We’ve had to be creative for nine months now, and we’re getting pretty good at it. It’s what we do when we feel the social distancing is about to drive us crazy. And we also remind each other of how little we have to complain about. So many people we know are living with really serious problems that are acerbated by the pandemic. We feel it is important to contribute to help out where and when we can.
Most of Merida’s citizens have felt up and down through this whole trial. I have stopped trying to force myself into a good mood when one of “those days” besets me. But neither do I wallow. I have learned to be gentle with myself and others. The isolation will go on for a good while yet.
But vaccine distribution is on the horizon and I for one will be rolling up my sleeve and will welcome the plunge of the needle. I have heard all the anti-vaccine arguments and I am not listening. I cannot wait to be free of the loneliness of living with such limited social interaction. Mind you, I am grateful that Jorge has shared this with me. We have grown closer through the experience, and this is the silver lining of the dismal cloud that has hung over us for nine months.
Our Christmas message and our prayer this year is, “Joy to the World”. We hope that by next December, our planet’s population will have begun to feel more robust health in every way. And yes, we also hope to be back attending and hosting the season’s special social events.
For me though, there will be a difference. I will enjoy it all with new eyes. I don’t think I have ever taken Christmas for granted, and I after 2020, it is highly unlikely that I ever will take my personal freedom and mobility lightly.
A Merry COVID Christmas and a Happy Virus-free New Year to all.