Happy Holidays From Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: Procession on the Calle

It’s festival season in Teotitlan del Valle. It was a full moon, a large globe of yellow light illuminating the path and all who walked it. On Christmas Eve baby Jesus is carried on a pillow through the winding cobblestone streets by the patron of the *last posada. He is followed by a litter holding statues of Mary and Joseph shouldered by four young women.

A moment's rest. Christmas Eve Procession, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, 2015

A moment’s rest. Christmas Eve Procession, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, 2015

The procession is flanked on one side by men, the other side women, each carrying lit decorated beeswax candles adorned with handmade wax flowers. Firecrackers boom out in front. A man swings a copal incense burner. The aroma is sweet, intense. Children and adults tweet whistles. The drummer keeps the pulse of the crowd throbbing.


We pick up people along the way to join in. Some stand at street corners or in doorways. Even the smallest of children participate. Early acculturation to custom and tradition.


The timing is precise. The procession must arrive at the church exactly at 10 p.m. for the evening mass to return the figures to their rightful resting places for another year, when the cycle will be repeated again with different actors.

Waiting to kiss and bless Baby Jesus before the church procession.

Waiting to kiss and bless Baby Jesus before the church procession.

My son, sister and brother-in-law are here and I’ve had the joy of being a tourist in my own town for the last few days. This night, we got to the house of the patron a little after 7 p.m. to learn that the procession that would leave the house to get to the church wouldn’t begin until 8 p.m.

La Dueña holds the infant as guests line up to bless him and await the procession.

Being the wonderful, hospitable people that Teotitecos are, we got invited in to see the creche and the blessing ceremony before the group gathered to walk the streets of the village.

Outdoor comal or cooking area for food preparation

Outdoor kitchen for food preparation, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

My sister, a flautist, struck up a conversation with the band leader who invited her to join them at a special morning band ceremony on December 31 that will welcome in the new year. Start time? 4 a.m.!  I’m not sure Barbara is going to make it.

Along the procession path, a pop-up restaurant

Along the procession path, a pop-up restaurant

Tradition in this village is to have a family meal at midnight after the mass ends to welcome the birth of Dios Niño. This is a feast of tamales, wine, mezcal, salad, chicken, stuffed pork, turkey or whatever other favorite entree the family likes. There may be beans, rice, fresh vegetables from the fields, ponché (like a sweet fruit cider), fresh fruit and an extravagant dessert.

It is an honor to be in the procession lighting the way.

It is an honor to be in the procession lighting the way.

There is no big festival meal served during Christmas Day here like in the USA. Families relax, stroll, play games. So, I asked Josefina if she would prepare a carry out. Roasted chicken spiced with salsa roja, mixed with carrots, green beans, squash and potatoes, served with organic rice and beans.  Surprise, Lupita shows up with a gift of handcrafted chile rellenos stuffed with chicken.

Blessings before the altar at the home of the Patron.

Blessings before the altar at the home of the Patron.

We finished on the rooftop terrace with wine and a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the Tlacolula Valley. The red sun vanished in the west.

Almost midnight Christmas Eve dinner, Barbara, Ixcel Guadalupe, Ernestina

Almost midnight Christmas Eve dinner, Barbara, Ixcel Guadalupe, Ernestina

*The Last Posada: La Ultima Posadais actually on December 23, when Mary and Joseph move to the Casa de la Patron for the final evening before the birth of Jesus.  The baby appears at this house on December 24, is cradled by the woman of the household, then is held by the patron under a canopy as the procession leaves the house and moves through the village to the church. This December 24 event is called La Procession.

Wishing you season's greeting with health and joy always.

Wishing you the season’s best with health and joy always.

Technical issues: My USB internet connection is REALLY slow these last days. It takes about 30 minutes to upload one photo! So this is a delayed post. Lots of intervening activities since I wrote this: The radish festival, a trip to Hierve El Agua, and a mezcal exploration to the remote mountain village of San Juan Del Rio. More to come.




10 responses to “Happy Holidays From Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: Procession on the Calle

  1. Beverly in Connecticut

    We have spent 2 Christmases in Oaxaca and enjoyed the radishes and a magical Christmas Eve on the Zocalo. The commercialism here in El Norte has hit new heights. Also the banning of all religious displays on public property has added to denying the true meaning of Christmas. Vive Mexico!
    you mentioned Carnivale in San Martin…do you know the dates and what goes on. I will surf through your past posts to see if I can find some info
    Happy New Year

    • Hi, Beverly, good to hear from you. Carnivale date in San Martin Tilcajete is on Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday, before Lent. There is so much room in the USA for personal expression of religion and we are a very diverse country. To ban Christmas from public property is appropriate out of respect for multiculturalism and in keeping with separation of church and state as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Happiest holidays to you and your family. -Norma

  2. Norma,

    This is a beautiful and moving report about your Christmas in Teotitlan. I just read it sitting in my home in Philadelphia, but I also experienced it to a small extent. Thank you. Happy New Year, with my sincere wishes for the best year yet.

    Bryan Fritz

    • Hi, Bryan, good to hear from you once again and appreciate that this blog resonates with you. Thank you for the holiday wishes. I say “egualmente” with good wishes for a year to come that brings you and your family contentment and satisfaction. All my best, Norma

  3. Hola Norma: I just returned (to NYC) Christmas Day from Cuzco, Peru. Their celebration of Navidad is much like that of Mexico—family gatherings, no commercialism, a wonderful Christmas market in the main zocalo and placing the baby in the manger at midnight—all very magical, civilized and beautiful.

    A friend and I will be in Oaxaca the month of Feb to explore and study Spanish before returning to San Miguel de Allende for a couple of months and look forward to yet another different aspect of wonderful Mexico.

    Prospero Año Nuevo.

    • Kitty, how lovely that you could be in Peru for the celebration of Navidad. I wish I could say that there is no commercialism here, but there is. The seamless interchange of cross-border cultures seems to favor the blinking lights of El Norte and we see houses now adorned with dancing reindeer, merry Santas, and lots of tinsel. I hope the tradition of low-key family celebrations that are mindful of the traditions continue, but quien sabe? I hope you enjoy Oaxaca when you are here. Be sure to go out to San Martin Tilcajete for their celebration of Carnivale. It’s pretty wonderful. All best wishes, Norma

  4. Many thanks again Norma for ‘taking us there’. I do hope to see you in July – the fallen Australian dollar may slow this down! I am aiming to get to the Shibori Network conference in November – Inshallah! Have a great festive season and a simply wonderful (wonderfully simple) 2016.

  5. Norma- so happy for you that you are sharing these amazing experiences with your family for the holidays. We wish all of you much health and happiness in 2016. We are still talking about and thinking about our amazing few days with you in Mexico City.

    With love,

    Susan and Rupert

    • Dear Susan and Rupert, happy new year! Thanks for the wishes and greetings of the season. Egualmente a los dos. I hope we will connect again in the near future. It was wonderful meeting and traveling with you. Much love, Norma

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