Noche de Paz

Silent Night, Holy Night here in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. I came down south of the border a bit early this year to house sit for a friend and take care of her three cats.   It’s my first Christmas in Mexico, and I must say it now ranks as my favorite holiday here. Past visits have been timed around New Years or Semana Santa (Easter,) so I am enjoying seeing the differences between the celebrations. I find Christmas has a more intimate, local feel than New Years Eve celebrations, and less crowded and a bit more upbeat than Easter. And I added a new word to my limited Spanish vocabulary, “Nochebuena” which translates to “Christmas Eve.”

The Jardin (garden, or main square) is beautifully decorated at this time of the year.

Poinsettias line the garden, and hundreds of twinkling lights hang from the trees.

Celebrations are in full swing.

I love the sparklers!

Elotes Hernandez, best corn on the cob slathered in mayo, coated in cotija cheese and dusted with cayenne pepper in town!

Christmas takes on a more traditional meaning here in Mexico. One doesn’t see plastic Gift Cards on every store rack and a jolly fat man wearing a red velvet suit, but rather more likely to see families congregating for neighborhood gatherings with the focus being the more original Christmas story, the Virgin birth. Whether or not you are a believer, it’s still intriguing, particularly in a country like Mexico where their faith is lived more outwardly.

The Virgin Guadalupe

Flower display near the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez

It’s not all traditional, however….but beautiful nonetheless.

They take their crèches seriously here, many with real people, and some even with live animals. And something I don’t remember seeing in the US, in keeping with the authentic story, the cradle is empty until midnight before Christmas Day. (Still trying to figure out why we never see an “expectant” Mary.)

Another difference is that many Nativity scenes don’t yet include the three wise men. Those come later, after the birth, and bring presents to the children on Kings Day in lieu of a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

The entire gazebo in the center of the Jardin becomes a life-sized Nativity scene.

One can view the 360° scene in the gazebo. Pretty life-like.

There is a second Nativity scene set up in Plaza Civica. Note, there is no baby in the cradle…yet.

One of the many reasons I was excited about the chance to be in Mexico at Christmas time was to experience a traditional Posada. The word “Posada” in Spanish translates to “Inn,” but in this case, the name refers to the candlelight processions reenacting Mary and Joseph’s quest for lodging, ergo “no room at the inn.” The pilgrims try door after door until they’re finally invited in for the night in celebration. There will typically be a “Piñatasare,” or piñata in the shape of a seven-pointed star representing the 7 Deadly Sins. It’s filled with sweets and treats which are released by the children who take turns bashing it to bits with a bat.

I came upon this neighborhood Posada where the young girl on the left just obliterated the piñata, and kids dive for the candy.

Inside the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez. Piñatas on the top, produce on the bottom.

Lots of piñatas for sale, but the “Piñatasare” or seven pointed star is the most traditional for Christmas.

Los Posadas take place on a varying scale from the smaller, more intimate neighborhoods to the “Public Posadas” that occur each night in the week leading up to Christmas. Since I arrived, I have been trying to catch a Posada Publica, but have had challenges with logistics. Either the times or dates in the local paper have been a misprint, or I can’t find the location. Time was running out, so I was determined to find one by the last night, Nochebuena.

This year, the moved the Christmas Tree from the Jardin to the Plaza Civica to allow better crowd flow.

They also added a stage for nightly Christmas plays and concerts.

It’s fun to now have two centers for festivities instead of just one.

“While shepherds watch their flock by night?”

I checked with the tourism office, then wandered up and down the neighborhood they suggested for two hours. Finally, it was getting late and I was growing weary, so I decided to give up and head back to the Casa. As I turned toward home, I walked about 10 steps, when it hit me…maybe that blue flashing light I had just seen down the street as I turned the corner was it? I turned around and continued further toward the flat bed truck with its lights flashing coming up the street. There were people leading the procession carrying gigantic paper mache “North stars.” And there on the back of the flat bed truck was a “live” Mary, Joseph, and a little angel. There were about 100 people following behind, singing songs, complete with strolling musicians.

Here comes the “Posada Publica Tradicional!”

Lucky are the locals who get to participate in the reenactment.

Navigating through the narrow streets and beneath the decorations hanging overhead is not always easy. This street is “Animas” where Don and I stayed on our first visit back in 2007.

The surprising part was seeing women come out of their front doors to greet the procession carrying little baskets with baby Jesus in them, part of their own Nativity scenes. The processional stopped on one of the quieter streets. The door opened up, and the “host” tossed bags of pastries and treats out the door into the crowd. It was a very touching experience, as the Mexicans are such devout followers, and no one does Holy holiday traditions any better.

Once the last Posada of the season reaches the Jardin, they dismount and ascend to the steps at the base of the Parroquia, the largest church in San Miguel.

The baby Jesus makes his appearance, and people file by to kiss the head of the baby.

A young girls choir sings the traditional Posada song as people file by.

If you would like to see more of my Posada experience, click here.

On the way home, I turned down narrow side street to see a crowd of about 20 people sitting out on the curb, all holding glowing candles. There was one lone guitarist strumming “Little Drummer Boy,” and they were all sitting around him singing. Just sitting there on both sides of the narrow street, singing along with this one guitar. There was a tiny crèche in the middle of their group. I stopped to listen. The intimacy and camaraderie among the group of friends moved me to tears.

Heading away from the Jardin, all radiating streets are strung with lights overhead.

It’s a quiet stroll back to the casa.

Decorations are simplistic, yet unique.

These paper lanterns are among my favorite.

I ask the strumming guitarist if I can photograph his creche.

I memorized two songs during my tenure as the Vice President of the High School Spanish Club; La Cucaracha (The Cockroach) and Silent Night. One of them served me well last night:

Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor.
Entre los astros que esparcen su luz
Bella anunciando al niñito Jesús
Brilla la estrella de paz
Brilla la estrella de paz</em

Regardless of whether or what you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you Merry Wishes, Happy Festivities, Blessed Solstice, and Feliz Navidad from San Miguel de Allende.

14 thoughts on “Noche de Paz

  1. Feliz Navidad! The piñatasare” or seven pointed star represents the Seven Deadly Sins. Many star-shaped piñatas today have only six points, leading inquiring minds to wonder which sin has slipped off the “deadly” list.
    And “Nochebuena” is also the Mexican name for poinsettias (which name derives from Arthur Poinsett, the US ambassador who popularized them in the States).

  2. Oh, thank you. Reminds me so much of the Christmas celebrations in the Philippines when I was a kid there … might be that Hispanic influence. I just found your blog and am already a fan. And I just purchased a brand new Escape 21-foot travel trailer. Mexico is now on my list. Again, thank you. Feliz Año Nuevo!

  3. Feliz Navidad amiga. One never knows where you will turn up next. So happy for you to have experienced this special holiday in Mexico. I have found that every region of this country has a different definition of the posada and how it is celebrated. Acapulco was my personal favorite but I know that I would really enjoy SMA at this time of year.

  4. What a fabulous experience Suzanne! When we lived in Mexico I loved the Semana Santa festivities, as the reenactment of Christ’s death and resurrection through our village was so real, no statues being carried, all locals who had auditioned for the parts. It was such a moving experience. Happy holidays to you!

  5. Very Happy that you are having such a beautiful and peaceful experience in SMA.
    It has managed to hold on to its traditions in a way many cities have not. Enjoy it and may it take away the sting of losing that “private spot” for boondocking!
    Gods Peace to you in this season and through the coming years travels!

  6. Beautiful! I’m very glad you’re there, as you love it so much! I hope you had a very Merry Christmas, and have a Happy New Year!

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