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Celebrations in Mexico City!
(December 1999 - January 2000)

Christmas Eve (Noche Buena)

The main Christmas celebration in Mexico City is on December 24th. The entire family convenes in a single home for a night of feasting, dancing, singing and, the favorite, piñata bashing! Read on for a first hand account of the festivities...
The Posada
Click for larger image! Click for larger image! The posada is a reenactment of Mary and Joseph's search for a place to rest. The idea is that a procession goes from house to house begging entrance (which of course is denied). When practiced at a Christmas party, however, it is usual for most of the guests to be turned out (to beg entrance) while a few stay indoors to answer the pleas. Everyone carries candles or sparklers (luces de bengal) which give a warm glow to the cold night air. Repeated requests for entrance are sung by the group, until at last the hosts relent and the hungry chanters are welcomed inside!

The Piñata
Click for larger image! Click for larger image! After-dinner entertainment comes in the form of piñata slaying! For the uninitiated, a piñata is a three dimensional clay and paper star, filled with goodies such as sweets, fruits and nuts! The piñata is suspended from a rope and swung around. The aim of the game is to break open the piñata with a stick. The catch? The person with the stick is blind-folded! The guests take turns at being blindfolded and taking swings at the piñata (or, more commonly, empty space). The rest of the guests yell helpful hints like "UP!!!" "DOWN!!!" "BEHIND YOU!!!"; while the piñata is swung from side to side and up and down.

You can't help being reminded of the scene in Star Wars where Luke is on the Falcon trying to hit the training orb. With this in mind I tried using the force and managed to apply some damaging blows to the wall.

Click for larger image!
Blind-folding the contestants prolongs the excitement
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Your adversary may not always be what it seems

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The scramble for spoils is the where the real violence begins!

News Years Eve

Click for larger image! As the clock strikes 12, everyone at the party is REQUIRED to give everyone else a hug to greet the new year. There were around 40 people at the party... well, you do the math, suffice to say a lot of hugs were exchanged!

Day of the Three Wise Men (Día de los Santos Reyes)

The ever generous three wise men (or kings) return each year to Mexico on January 6th bearing gifts for the children. Adults celebrate the day with a rosca. The rosca is ring shaped cake laden with crystallized fruits. One, or more, small plastic babies are hidden inside each rosca. If your serving has a baby inside, you are obliged, by law, to bring tamales for everyone on February 2nd (el dia de la candelaria)! Of course by this time everyone's forgotten who got the plastic baby so it becomes a day of fierce confrontations!

Glossary

Piñata
Traditionally, a three dimensional clay and paper star, filled with goodies such as sweets, fruits and nuts! It is said that the seven points of the piñata represent the seven deadly sins, and the destroying of the piñata represents the destruction of the sins... trouble is most piñatas sold today have any number of points (perhaps the five point piñatas are for those who don't wish to eliminate all the sins?). Also popular nowadays are piñatas in the shape of cartoon characters.

Tamales
Sweet or savory meals made from ground corn (maize) and a filling such as chicken. The corn and filling mixture is wrapped in a corn leaf before cooking. The variations are endless!

  
Cuba - Rotorua, New Zealand - Christ Church, Dublin - Monument Valley, Arizona - Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico - Staffa, Scotland - Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico - Costa Rica - Tule Tree, Oaxaca, Mexico - Fiesta, Mexico City - Making Lacquer, Olinalá, Mexico - Talavera Ceramics, Puebla, Mexico - Mata Ortiz Pottery, Mexico - Lebanon
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