Happiest holidays to you and yours! I hope you celebrate the beauty of life with family and friends — ’tis the season for peace, thanksgiving, and recommitment to relationships. Out here on the Rio Grande Gorge Mesa, the sun is bright, the air is chilly, and the skies are clear and clean. All promising a season of joy. Most importantly, may we all have a year ahead filled with good health and renewal of spirit.
Tonight, we will go to the Taos Pueblo for a traditional Christmas Eve celebration Native American-style with bonfires and dancing. My son and daughter-in-law arrive soon from Albuquerque for the festivities. Then, afterward we will join lifelong friends Karen, Steve and their family for Phase 1 of the Holiday Feast. Phase 2 is tomorrow, when the cooking extravaganza lead by Marc, with Carl and Steve at the helm, will culminate with the Mega-Feast. I’ve never participated before, but its a family tradition they have been doing for over twenty-five years.
Meanwhile, tonight in Oaxaca marks the Ultimate Posada, the night that the baby Jesus appears at the last stop on the nine-day search for lodging. (The nine days is symbolic of nine months of pregnancy). As many of you know, the Posada is a re-enactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to sleep as they make their way to Bethlehem to pay end-of-year taxes. We all know the story: the inns along the way were full and they ended up sleeping in a manger where their child was born. I know the Teotitlan del Valle posada best since it is where I live, too. Usually, in years past, I have left the USA for Oaxaca in time to walk alongside villagers in solemn, candlelit procession as the church leadership carry carved figures of Mary and Joseph throughout the village on palanquin. Cohetes (firecrackers) burst at regular intervals. Altar boys lead the way with huge candle pillars and the priest swings the incense carrier that emits that wonderfully evocative smokey aroma of burning copal. Of course, there is musical accompaniment — the pre-Hispanic flute takes the lead with traditional musicians just behind. They alternate with the village brass band that plays music akin to John Phillips Sousa. The solemnity is punctuated by festivity.
So, tonight in Teotitlan, the biggest Christmas celebration occurs. The last procession usually begins at sunset. When the procession arrives at the home of the host family, there are blessings in the altar room and the Baby Jesus appears on a soft pillow. Feasting and drinking carry on throughout the night with plenty of barbecue, tortillas, and mezcal. In the morning, the host family will provide food to their guests that include hot chocolate and higadito (scrambled eggs with chicken in chicken broth). Tomorrow, everyone will be home with their family for a comida of tamales amarillo!
Did you know that poinsettias are native to Mexico?