Christmas in Chapala
Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
91Trip End Jul 20, 2011
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Where I stayed
Birds of Paradise
Christmas traditions in the Lake Chapala area are all about the "Christ" in Christmas. Not about Santa or toys, all about the birth of Jesus. I arrived for the start of the posadas - small parades that start the 9 days before Christmas and take place in some form in every little village. In the village of San Antonio, walking distance from where i was staying, the posadas consisted of a a nightly procession, starting at dusk each night, consisting of the village children gathering with little staffs and walking along with the priest and two older children dressed as Mary and Joseph and a leader. The group walked along the cobblestone streets looking for the three or four different households that sponsored the posada each night. The sponsoring household was responsible for erecting a scene outside of their doorway, from the bible, that taught a specific lesson. As the group of children at the front and the adults following, paraded down the decorated street, they came across the little doorway scene. Carols were sung, a lesson about the particular scene was read and little Mary and Joseph asked the people in the scene if there was room for baby Jesus to be born. the procession then continued down the street to another house and the activity was repeated. After viewing all of the scenes in the evening, the procession continued to the church square where a meal was served and the kids got little bags of candy prepared by the sponsoring households.
On the ninth night - Christmas Eve, the last stop was the church and lo and behold - there was room for baby Jesus to be born and a celebration was held with more candy and little toys for the kids.
On Christmas Eve, Josie and I walked into Ajijic and in that Church square, 10 or 11 live nativity scenes were set up - each one representing a different state in Mexico. Each one had a different style with the clothing and custom of that state. It was really beautiful and then, right at 8pm, the church bells started to ring and the people flooded into the huge Cathedral for the service. It was standing room only, filled with all ages and the mass was accompanied by an orchestra and choir. Carols and hymns were sung and it was really lovely and special.
This church is packed everyday and on Sunday there are eleven different services. Mexico is very very religious and it is common to see people walking by the church take a moment, go in and say a few prayers before continuing on their way. Nice.
Christmas Day we hung at the pool before we went to the potluck dinner at the condo complex. The turkey feast was followed by a visit from a very blonde Santa and a gift exchange that turned into a bit of a nasty fight. It was one of those 'steal' if you can gift exchanges and I was stuck with an expired coupon book until I traded up for a bottle of champagne.....the hot gift was a fish rug and the picture tells you that we seemed to be missing that "Christ" part.....the rug did go to a good home in the end.
January 6 is Three Kings Day in Mexico - it is the day the children get gifts, just like in many parts of Europe. A Mexican tradition on this day is to gather in the town square, erect beautiful pinatas filled with candy, and let all the children have a turn 'whacking' the pinata. In Ajijic, this even takes place at dusk. Many expats sponsor the purchase of many pinatas and the children, some as young as two, formed a circle around the pinata and took turns attempting to be the one to smash open the bounty box. They sing a song for each kid, when that song is done, the next kid steps up. Again, the politeness and kindness of the children here stands out. Each one waited their turn, no pushing, no shoving and when the candies scattered each time, the older ones ensured that everybody got something. There is a lot to say about haviing so little that a treat means something. I have seen this kind of chivalry in every really poor place I have been. From the Cambodian orphanages to the Burmese refugee camps, to the streets of India, really poor kids look after each other. They share their wealth, however meagre it might seem to us. Very special and heart warming.