"Why Christmas Is About Food" is an op-ed in the New York Times. The
essay, though well-written, never referred to the reason for
Christmas. To me, it was not Christmassy, it was bland. I guess that's
because it represents more of what Christmas is today. Besides, the
writer is an adult.
Christmas isn't the same after you grow up. Maybe it's that we're
not actually "grown up," we're just old. If I wrote a letter to Santa
today, I'd ask him for just one more Christmas like the old days.
And, if I had to choose the most memorable Christmas ever, it wouldn't
be the one when there was a shortage of trees and my father created
one for us out of boughs and tinsel; it wouldn't be the one where
I got my first "lady" purse; and it wouldn't be the one where I gave
everybody a magazine picture of what I would've bought them if I hadn't
been broke that year, though they were all great. It would be the
one in Mexico.
In the U.S., days of Christmas are recognized as 12 but in Mexico,
it's 9. Known as Las Posadas (The Inns), they represent the journey
of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, seeking shelter for
the birth of their child. They are turned away by one inn after another,
until the last night.
In the Mexican
fishing village where I lived in the 90s, these 9 nights are recreated
by the villagers. Two children, dressed as Mary and Joseph, walk
down the cobblestone streets. People of all ages collect behind
them, the procession ever increasing in size. Shawled old ladies,
young fathers carrying toddlers on their shoulders, women holding
their children's hands, a young man strumming his guitar, everyone
softly singing the Las Posadas song. Thanks to YouTube, you can
hear it here: https://bit.ly/2rBGuyc
my friend, Josefina, I joined the celebrants as Mary and Joseph
walked to the first "Inn," a modest Mexican house, decorated for
the occasion with colored lights, a white sheet as backdrop to a
Nativity scene. The grandfather knelt, stationary and silent, carefully
posed, in the form of a tableaux or sculpture. He was being blessed
by his granddaughter, an Angel in white, with silver wings and silver
Here the procession halted, while a priest intoned blessings. Everyone
sang the Las Posadas song, as we would many times along the way,
accompanied by whispering guitars and the voices of the children
raised high in spiritual adoration, as the crowd walked on to the
Each stop along the way gave us another creation of a spiritual
scene by living people representing Innkeepers who turned Mary and
Joseph away, as dictated in biblical lore. (It is a great honor
to be one of the homes chosen to partake in these costumed recreations.)
The procession ended near midnight in the yard of the elementary
school where all the children were given Christmas sweets made by
the women of the Village, including a big piņata being gaily carried
inside. Across the street stood the church, where Josefina's youngest
son, Fernando, served as an altar boy, preparing for Midnight Mass.
It was the first one I'd attended in over 30 years.
On the remaining nights leading up to Christmas, all will be repeated,
with different houses on different streets, with different scenes.
On Christmas Eve, an "Inn" will at last permit Mary and Joseph to
stay the night. For the first time, a baby will appear and be placed
in the manger.
In that simple village live people of unconquerable faith. I was
both humbled and awed.
In writing this, Santa has answered my request. I have been gifted
with a glorious memory, still living within me.
Merry Christmas to all.