Culture, Customs and Holidays

ENERO (January)

(Mes dedicado al Santismo Nombre de Jesús
Month dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus)

1: Año Nuevo (New Year's Day) **
Santa María Madre de Dios (Solemnity of the Virgin Mary) +
1st. Sunday in January: La Epifaña (Epiphany)
2nd. Sunday in January: El Bautismo del Señor (Baptism of the Lord) 6: Los Santos Reyes (Three Kings Day) +
17: San Antonio Abad - ( St. Anthony) Blessing of the Animals +
18: Santa Prisca, (Patron Saint of Taxco , Gro.) +*
20: San Sebastian (St. Sebastian the Martyr)+

FEBRERO (February)

2: Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas) +
5: Aniversario de la Constitución (Constitution Day) *
14: Día de la Amistad/San Valentín (Valentine's Day)*
24: Día de la Bandera (Flag Day)*

MARZO (March)

(Mes dedicado al culto de Señor San José
Month dedicated to the worship of Saint Joseph )

Four days preceding Ash Wednesday: Carnival (Mardi Gras) 7: Martes de Carnival (Shrove Tuesday)+
8: Miércoles de Ceniza (Ash Wednesday) +
8: San Juan de Dios (St. John of God)+
17: San Patricio, (St. Patrick, Patron Saint of San Patricio Melaque, Jal.)+*
18: Expropiación Petrolera (Nationalization of Petroleum Industry) *
19: Día de San José ( St. Joseph 's Day)+
21: Natilicio de Benito Juárez ( Benito Juarez' Birth )**

ABRIL (April)

16: Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday)+
20: Jueves Santo (Maundy Thursday)+
21: Viernes Santo (Good Friday)+
22: Sábado Santo y de Gloria (Holy Saturday)+
23: Domingo de Gloria/Pascua de Resurrección (Easter Sunday)+
25: San Marcos , Patron Saint of Aguascalientes, Ags. +*
30: Día del Niño (Children's Day)*

MAYO (May)

(Mes de las flores consagrado a la Santísima Virgen María
Month of flowers consecrated to the Holy Virgin Mary)

1: Día del Trabajo (Labor Day)** also San José Obrero (St. Joseph)
3: Día de la Santa Cruz (Holy Cross Day)+
5: Batalla de Puebla (Battle of Puebla)**
10: Día de las Madres (Mothers Day) - fixed date *
15: San Isidro Labrador (St. Isador the Farmer) -Blessing of Animals +

JUNIO (June)

(Mes dedicado al culto del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús
Month dedicated to the worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus)

3: Domingo de Corpus (Corpus Christi)+
4:Domingo de Asención (Ascension Sunday)+ 11: Pascua de Pentecostés (Pentecost)+
13: San Antonio de Padua (St. Anthony of Padua)+
3rd Sunday in June: Día del Padre (Father's Day)*
24: San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist)+
27: Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro (Our Lady of Perpetual Succor)+
29: San Pedro y San Pablo (St. Peter & St. Paul)+

JULIO (July)

(Mes de la preciosa Sangre de Cristo
Month of the Precious Blood of Christ)

4: Nuestra Señora del Refugio (Our Lady of Refuge)+
16: Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Our Lady of Mount Carmel)+
18-25: La Guelaguetza -Lunes del Cerro Festival, Oaxaca , Oax. (Traditional Folk Festival)+*
25: Santiago Apóstol (St. James the Apostle)+

AGOSTO (August)

15: La Asunción de la Virgen María (The Assumption of the Virgen Mary)+
28: San Agustín, ( St. Augustine , Patron Saint of Puebla, Pue).+*

SEPTIEMBRE (September)

(Mes de la Fiestas Patrias
Month of National Festivities)

1: Día del Informe Presidencial (President's State of the Union Address)*
13: Aniversario de la muerte de los Niños Heroes (Young Heros of Chapultepec)
14: Día del Charro (Horseman's Day)
15: Conmemoración del Grito de la Independencia (Independence Cry "El Grito")*
16: Día de la Independencia (Independence Day)**
24: Nuestra Señora de la Merced (Our Lady of Mercy)+
29: San Miguel Archangel,(St. Michael Archangel, Patron Saint of San Miguel Allende, Gto.) +*

OCTUBRE (October)

(Mes dedicado al Santísimo Rosario
Month dedicated to the Holy Rosary)

4: San Francisco de Asís, (Patron Saint of Chapala, Jal.) +*
7: Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary)+
12: Día de la Raza (Columbus Day)**
Romería de la Virgen de Zapopan, (Pilgimage Guadalajara-Zapopan)+*

NOVIEMBRE (November)

1: Todos los Santos (All Saints Day)+
2: Día de los Fieles Difuntos (Day of the Dead-All Souls Day) +
12: Día del Cartero (Mailman's Day - post offices close)*
20: Aniversario de la Revolución Mexicana (Revolution Day)**
22: Santa Cecilia, (St. Cecilia,Patron Saint of Musicians)+
30: San Andrés, (St. Andrew, Patron Saint of Ajijic, Jal.)+*

DICIEMBRE (December)

(Mes de la Natividad del Señor y la Virgen de Guadalupe
Month of the Nativity of the Lord and of the Virgin of Guadalupe)

6: San Nicolás (St. Nicholas)+
8: La Inmaculada Concepción de la Virgen María (The Immaculate Conception+
12: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadlaupe) +
16-24: Posadas Navideñas (Pre-Christmas festivities)+
24: Noche Buena (Christmas Eve)+
25: Navidad (Christmas Day)*/+
28: Día de los Santos Inocentes (Day of the Holy Innocents)+
31: Festejos de fin de Año (New Year's Eve)

Day of the Dead

November 1, All Saints Day, and November 2, All Souls Day are marked throughout Mexico by a plethora of intriguing customs that vary widely according to the ethnic roots of each region. Common to all, however, are colorful adornments and lively reunions at family burial plots, the preparation of special foods, offerings laid out for the departed on commemorative altars and religious rites that are likely to include noisy fireworks.

In most localities November 1 is set aside for remembrance of deceased infants and children, often referred to as angelitos (little angels). Those who have died as adults are honored November 2.

From mid-October through the first week of November, markets and shops all over Mexico are replete with the special accouterments for the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). These include all manner of skeletons and other macabre toys; intricate tissue paper cut-outs called papel picado; elaborate wreaths and crosses decorated with paper or silk flowers; candles and votive lights; and fresh seasonal flowers, particularly cempazuchiles (marigolds) and barro de obispo (cockscomb). Among the edible goodies offered are skulls, coffins and the like made from sugar, chocolate or amaranth seeds and special baked goods, notably sugary sweet rolls called pan de muerto that come in various sizes invariably topped with bits of dough shaped like bones and, in some regions, unadorned dark breads molded into humanoid figures called animas (souls). All of these goods are destined for the buyer's ofrenda de muertos (offering to the dead).

At home members of the family might use the purchases to elaborate an altar in honor of deceased relatives, decorating it with papel picado, candles, flowers, photographs of the departed, candy skulls inscribed with the name of the deceased, and a selection of his or her favorite foods and beverages. The latter often include bottles of beer or tequila, cups of atole (corn gruel) or coffee, and fresh water, as well as platters of rice, beans, chicken or meat in mole sauce, candied pumpkin or sweet potatoes and the aforementioned breads.

The spirits of the dead are expected to pay a holiday visit home and should be provided with an enticing repast and adequate sustenance for the journey. Frequently a wash basin and clean hand towel are provided so that visiting souls can freshen up before the feast. The offering may also include a pack of cigarettes for the after-dinner enjoyment of former smokers, or a selection of toys and extra sweets for deceased children. In setting up the altar, a designated area of the home is cleared of its normal furnishings. The arrangement often consists of a table and several overturned wooden crates placed in tiers and covered with clean linens. The offerings are then laid out in an artistic and fairly symmetrical fashion. The smell of burning copal (incense) and the light of numerous candles are intended to help the departed find their way.

Meanwhile, at the family burial plot in the local cemetery, relatives spruce up each gravesite. In rural villages this may entail cutting down weeds that have sprouted up during the rainy season, as well as giving tombs a fresh coat of paint after making any needed structural repairs. The graves are then decorated according to local custom. The tomb may be simply adorned by a cross formed of marigold petals or elaborately embellished with colorful coronas (wreaths) and fresh or artificial floral arrangements. In many areas children's graves are festooned with brightly colored paper streamers or other festive adornments.

On November 2 family members gather at the cemetery for gravesite reunions more festive than somber. Some bring along picnic baskets, bottles of tequila for toasting the departed or even a mariachi band to lead a heartfelt sing-along. Local merchants set up provisional stands outside the cemetery gates to sell food and drinks. The booming reports of pyrontechnic rockets may announce the commencement of an open-air memorial mass, the ocassion's most solemn interlude.

While death is a topic largely avoided in the USA , the remembrance of deceased ancestors and loved ones is traditional among diverse cultures around the globe, often marked by lighting candles or lamps and laying out offerings of food and drink. Such celebrations can be traced back as far as the glory days of ancient Egypt when departed souls were honored during the great festival of Osiris.

In Mexico the Day of the Dead is a holiday that tends to be a subject of fascination for visitors from abroad. With its rare mix of pre-Hispanic and Roman Catholic rituals, it is also a perfect illustration of the synthesis of pre-Hispanic and Spanish cultures that has come to define the country and its people.

Death held a significant place in the pantheons and rituals of Mexico 's ancient civilizations. Among the Aztecs, for example, it was considered a blessing to die in childbirth, battle or human sacrifice, for these assured the victim a desirable destination in the afterlife. The success of the Spaniard's spiritual conquest in Mexico is due in part to their willingness to incorporate certain pre-Hispanic customs into Christian practices.

Not surprisingly, as Mexican society has modernized, long-held customs have begun to fall by the wayside, particularly among urbanites. But the rapid encroachment of U.S. culture, intensified since the enactment of North American Free Trade Agreement, seems to have spurred many citizens to actively pursue the preservation of Mexican traditions. While each October the country's supermarket shelves are now crammed with plastic pumpkins, witches' hats and rubber masks, government and private institutions have recently increased promotion of commemorative altars displayed in museums, educational centers and other public venues.

Most Mexico guidebooks make special mention of Day of the Dead customs, focusing on the celebrated all-night candlelight vigils in cemeteries at Janitzio Island and Mixquic, to the extent that either may draw nearly as many awed observers as celebrants.

Mixquic, once a farming island of the Aztec empire, is now a district of Mexico City that has retained something of a rural village ambiance and its ancient indigenous roots. The area takes on a busy and festive air in the final days of October as merchants set up street stands to hawk their wares for the Day of the Dead. In the cemetery, all family burial plots are elaborately embellished with an array of earthly delights in the hope of luring departed spirits. At 2 p.m. November 1, relatives gather at each tomb to mourn the loss of loved ones with la llorada--the weeping. Later, when dark would normally envelop the graveyard, the glow of thousands of votive candles illuminates the way for the departed. At Midnight they are called home with the mournful tolling of bells. Then each soul is lovingly remembered with recitations of the Rosary.

Day of the Dead festivities in villages throughout the state of Sonora have a distinctive flavor reflecting the culture of the area's Heritage. Having successfully resisted conquest in the pre-Hispanic era, this ethnic group remained immune to outside influences until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors. As in other parts of Mexico , floral tributes, regional repast and candlelight vigils in each local cemetery are integral to the November 1 and 2 celebrations.

These Day of the Dead rituals are echoed in cities and villages throughout Mexico . As each locality offers distinctive traditions and a unique flavor bound to fascinate the curious traveler, a visit to any Mexican cemetery would be a worthwhile addition to the itinerary of anyone touring the country this time of year.

Semana Santa and Pascua

For Mexico , Easter is a combination of Semana Santa (Holy Week - Palm Sunday to Easter Saturday) and Pascua (Resurrection Sunday until the following Saturday). For most Mexicans, this 2 week period is THE time of year for vacation (good time to not be on the highways - just stay put and enjoy the community of your choice during this holday season). Semana Santa celebrates the last days of the Christ's life. Pascua is the celebration of the Christ's Resurrection. It is also the release from the sacrifices of Lent.

In many communities, the full Passion Play is enacted from the Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Judgement, the Procession of the 12 Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion and, finally, the Resurrection. In some communities, flagellation and/or real crucifixion is included. The enactments are often wonderously staged, costumed and acted, with participants preparing for their roles for nearly the full year leading up to Semana Santa.

Chanukah, one of the celebrations of light during the time of Winter Solstice begins at sunset on December 3 this year. Each evening, families light candles to remember the triumph of the Maccabees who regained control of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the great miracle which happened there, when the remaining supply of consecrated oil burned for eight more days.

Amazed to discover Mexico 's large Jewish population, in what appears at first glance to be a completely Catholic country? Since Mexico was settled at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, it is not surprising to discover that many Spanish Jews made their way to freedom in the new world.

La Virgen De Guadalupe
The celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Patrona of Mexico, the Queen of the Americas also begins on December 3 and culminates on her special day, December 12, when all Mexico pauses to celebrate the mother of God as she appeared on Tepeyac, the prehispanic site of the temple to Tontanslin , one of the most influential Aztec goddesses, asking that a temple be built to her on that site, as the Mother of Mexico.

An aura of sun rays surrounded the Virgin, when her image appeared on the tilma (cloak) of Juan Diego on December 12, 1531 , marking her as an ambassador from the sun, the highest of all the Aztec gods. Her power, her light and her love are remembered for the nine days of processions and pilgrimages -- another fiesta of light.

The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe remains one of the great mysteries of the world. The image was first seen when Juan Diego dropped from his cloak the Castillian roses the Virgin produced as a sign to prove her existence showered from the tilma to the Bishop's feet. That this rough handmade garment has lasted over 460 years is a mystery. The normal lifespan for the fabric which had been made from agave, the succulent from which Tequila is also made, would be from 10-20 years. This incredible image has survived unscathed by 166 years of unprotected display and reverent touching, the explosion of a bomb left in a nearby vase, and, in the 1800's, silversmiths repairing the frame, spilled nitric acid which covered nearly two thirds of the cloth.

Over the centuries scientists and experts from around the world have inspected and tested the fabric, but have never detected a trace of ink or paint.

The Indians who saw the image read it much like you read these words. They saw that this woman was greater than the moon she stood on, but that she was lesser than and coming from the Sun god. Her blue green outer cloak told them that she was an ambassador, coming with messages from the most powerful of gods, the sun. The stars on her cloak formed the constellations as they appeared in the sky on December 12, 1531 . At her waist was a black sash, as was worn by all pregnant women at that time. Most important of all, unlike the paintings and the statues in the churches, this messenger from God had skin the color of their own, a coppery brown.

In recent years, with the invention of more powerful microscopic instruments, study of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe has continued, with more and more discoveries. First it was found that the highlight in her downcast right eye is a perfect profile image of Juan Diego. Years later, using computer imaging, scientists found as many as 18 persons in the eyes of the Virgin, one very Ghandi-like, another a black woman, and more.

All the science in the world, however cannot begin to understand the importance of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico , in Latin America and in the United States . For this understanding, we must look at the people's devotion to her, their relationship with her. This is not a simple viewing of an image in a silver frame, this is the relationship with a mother, a sister, a friend, a neighbor, another part of self.

The devotion to Guadalupe transcends any form of religious scope to become a symbol of Mexican nationalism and patriotism. Guadalupe creates a bond, a sense of being Mexican, of profound pride in being Mexican. Her influence crosses all borders and boundaries. She transcends the normal division of social strata found yet today in Mexico , and her devotees are the rich and humble, the industrialized and the farmer, the educated and the illiterate, the religious and the cynical. Her altar is a glitter of lights, roses and hope, the Mexican love for her is an endless hymn, the Mexican's contact with her is hourly, she is the Mother of Mexico, the Queen of the Americas , She IS Mexico .

The first nacimiento or nativity scene was displayed in 1223 by Saint Francis of Assissi in Italy , when he recreated the ancient scene in a real stable, using barnyard animals and local persons.

Some of the first Mexican monks were taught by the Spanish to carve nativity figures. As with most religious customs in this country, traditional folklore has crept into some of the figures. A fascinating Sunday or Thursday excursion during late November and December is to the Tonala market which features dozens of stalls which sell nothing but supplies, bits and pieces for nacimientos.

Nacimientos have traditionally been the main decorations in local homes, businesses and churches, and what tributes they are. Using moss, sawdust, sand, and painted paper, multi-tiered bases are created to resemble hills, deserts, rivers and lakes. Whole villages appear on tabletops, and more characters and scenes are added each year Dozens of figures are lovingly arranged around December 14th, and kept on display until February 2.

Look for purely Mexican traditions and twists in the nacimientos, like the rooster who crowed to announce the birth of the child, fish in the river (from the lovely Mexican carol of the same name—Los Peces en el Rio), Lucifer lurking in his cave to tempt the shepherds from their journey, the Egyptians camping with their tents and pyramids. These are representations of complete villages, with wells, vendors with carts of fruits and vegetables, playing children, musicians, dancers, mutton and pork roasting on spits, even women making tortillas.

Foreigners are frequently confused when confronted by nativity scenes and other Christmas decorations all through January, and even into February. Even more puzzling to newcomers are 4 inch figures of Mary and Joseph, and a nearly life size Christ child. But there is tradition to explain this, too. On January 6, during the fiesta to honor the arrival of the Three Kings at the manger, a special ring-shaped bread called the “Rosca” will be served. Baked into the bread is one or more small plastic figures of the Child God. The guests who find these images in their serving of bread are named the Godparents of the Christ Child from the Nacimiento. It is then their responsibility to host a party on February 2, El Dia de Candlelaria or the Day of Purification, the final celebration of a Christmas holiday which began on December 3 with the beginning of nine day celebration of The Virgin of Guadalupe.

At the time of the birth of the Christ Child, Jewish tradition and law forbade women access to the Temple for 40 days after the birth of a child. Mary and Joseph would have presented the Baby Jesus, the Child God in the Temple then on February 2. In many villages, the Child from the Nativity scene is dressed in a long white gown and bonnet, placed on a small chair and taken to the church to be blessed on February 2. In the newer church in Chapala , this custom is still practiced, with tiny clothing and shoes and accessories available at the church.

Nacimientos are especially important in Guadalajara , due to the artistic influence of Tlaquepaque , where many figures are made and a competition of creches is held each year.

Las Posadas
Las Posadas are a series of nine charming children's processions which are uniquely, genuinely and exclusively Mexican, seemingly invented by the early Spanish missionaries solely to comfort and convert the former Aztecs.

The tradition of the nine days of processions ( Posadas ) began soon after the arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico . Clever San Ignacio de Loyola created the custom to teach the story of the birth of Jesus and more importantly to coincide with the nine day Fiestas of the Sun, which celebrated the virgin birth of the Aztec Sun god, Huitzilopchtli, from the 16th through the 24th of December. Special permission was received from Rome to celebrate nine “Christmas Masses” to represent the nine months of Mary's pregnancy.

This December, children in the villages here at Lake Chapala , will set out each evening from the church for a pilgrimage to a different neighborhood. This procession symbolizes the journey made by Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem and Joseph's search for shelter (Posada) at an Inn (also Posada). The peregrinos (pilgrims) include Joseph leading Mary on a burro, an Angel, shepherds, kings, and a large flock of excited, giggling, jostling, bumping, wiggling, shiny-eyed others, most with bright ribbon and flower decked shepherds' staffs which they tap in time to the music.

The lovely verses of the traditional Posada song are exchanged back and forth between Joseph and the group outside each house and the Innkeeper and the group inside. At each location, Joseph asks for entry, until finally at a prearranged location, the Innkeeper and friends sing from inside the shelter (house):

“Enter holy pilgrims, receive this humble corner, that while we know it is a poor lodging, it is given as the gift of heart.” And the party begins, with joyous music, piñatas, with candy, fruit, and treats for everyone. Like the fiestas held by the ancients to honor Huitzilopochtli, the Mexican Posadas are full of the deepest of feeling—laughter mixed with deep spirituality, combined with the Mexican's thirst for diversion from the daily sameness of survival. This is truly a merrily religious celebration, and for most of the children, far more anticipated than Christmas itself.

Although the Piñata originated in China, the traditional party favorite of Mexican children travelled along the trade routes to Italy where it was named pigata or pineapple in Italian, then to Spain in time to be taken to the new world by the missionaries. In every Mexican village, every few blocks there is a housewife making all sizes and designs of piñatas from fringed crepe paper and cardboard glued to a clay jar (cantero).

The serious symbolism of this simple party toy is very typical of Mexico as there is always more to understand than appears on the surface.

The decorated clay cantero represents Satan who often wears an attractive mask to attract humanity. The most traditional style of Piñata looks a bit like Sputnik, with seven points, each with streamers. These cones represent the seven deadly sins, and the breaking of the Piñata with the ensuing shower of sweets and fruits and nuts vividly shows the triumph of good over evil and the unknown joys and rewards which will be given in heaven to the good and faithful. The blindfolded participant represents the leading force in defying evil, faith, which must be blind, and is guided only by the voices of others crying “arriba, abajo, atras” (up, down, back). In Ajijic, the children cry out, “ Chapala ” or “ San Juan ”, the villages to the East and West, to indicate the location of the Piñata to the blindfolded child.

You will hear the parents and children singing special Piñata songs including a verse which says, “I don't need gold, nor do I desire silver All that I want is to break the Pinata!”

When the missionaries arrived in Mexico , they often used exaggerated outdoor plays to teach many of the Christian legends and ideals to the Indians. Thus were born the Pastorelas, the wonderfully naïve, irony packed story of the birth of the Christ Child.

Today Pastorelas continue, with the script improvised by the participants. Especially fun are the simple country shepherds traveling to visit the newly born child in the manger, and the many encounters they have with Lucifer, his attractive disciples, and the ultimate battle of good and evil. Each year, amidst the jokes, jeers, laughter, songs, slang, bawdy humor, discussions, cigarettes, tequila, even ladies of the evening, it is a fight to the finish between Lucifer and the Archangel Gabriel. Even if you don't understand Spanish, the broad acting, fun and laughter will give you the overview of this very typically Mexican tradition.

Watch for the Pastorelas on the steps of San Andres Church on Christmas Eve, in Plaza de los Fundadores, near the front of the Teatro Degalldo, in Guadalajara between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily during the nine days before Christmas. Other presentations may be announced in the Guadalajara Reporter.

Christmas Eve (La Noche Buena) and Christmas (Navidad)
Just six years after arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico , Father Pedro de Gante began the celebration of Christmas with the “Misa de Gallo” (The mass of the rooster) Held at midnight , the mass quickly became very popular with the newly-converted Indians.

To sustain the newly converted Indian Catholics with the comfort and continuity of the more familiar fiestas for the God of the Sun Huitzilopochtli, Father Diego de Soria and other priests added the familiar skyrockets (cohetes,) torches, sparklers (Luces de Bengala), the Pastorelas, the arrival of the Posadas from the various neighborhoods, displays of live nacimientos, piñatas, ponche (Christmas punch with a fruit base) groups of Indian dancers, tamales, and more to the Christmas celebration.

Christmas Eve in 1999 in Ajijic and Chapala will be much the same. More than 750 years after St. Francis of Assi's first nacimiento, the patio of the main church of San Andres and in the plaza in Chapala will be filled with live nativities representing countries around the world, and areas of Mexico . Mary, Joseph, the baby, an angel and two shepherds will be dressed to reflect each region, as will a few well placed props. Expect to see wooden shoes and tulips, cotton snow on bushes with an igloo, Aztecs and other Indians, or “Africans” with wild animals. Each creche features a live cooing baby in the manger.

During the evening, the last Posada will arrive at the Church, to visit each manger. A group of local residents will honor the babe with traditional Indian dances while musicians play their gift and Mexicans and Anglos exchange greetings of Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas, with hugs and abrazos, and feel the spirit of love and peace.. Be prepared to smile throughout the night as sounds of the celebrations of the Mexican community continue with music and joy.

Christmas Day (Navidad) is an unearthly quiet Mexican day, as the families sleep and recover after all-night festivities. Foreigners quietlymake their rounds on empty streets, to visit friends and enjoy feasts.

La Flor De La Nochebuena
Few of our friends back home realize when they give and receive Poinsettias each holiday season, that Mexico gave the world this special holiday floral tribute.

Of the many names for this flower, the most beautiful is La Flor de la Nochebuena, (The Flower of the Holy Night). The ancients knew this plant as Cuetlaxochitl, which means “the flower of leather petals”. The ancients considered all flowers to be divine gifts of the Gods, not only because of their wonderful beauty, scent and color, but they were also believed to be metaphors of the most beautiful feelings. This star-shaped, red, winter-flowering plant was a special favorite long before the arrival of Columbus .

The Nochebuena was considered by the Aztecs to be a symbol of the new life earned by the warriors who died in battle. As hummingbirds and butterflies, these warriors would return to earth to sip the nectar of the Poinsettia.

Dia De Inocentes (Day of the Innocents)
It might be more accurate to refer to December 28 as December Fool's Day, as on this day it is said that you can borrow something and never return it, and the day abounds with jokes and requests and fantastic stories, to convince the naive of lending almost everything.

It is believed the custom originally recalls King Herod's instructions to kill all the newborn children in order to destroy the infant child god. It is typical of Mexico and Mexicans to laugh in the face of tragedy, to challenge the fears which intimidate.

In Victorian times, friends would send one another elaborate notes detailing some great tragedy or horrible problem requiring them to borrow sums of money, tools, or household items, much like an April Fool's prank. When the friend, forgetting the day would respond, the prank player sent a gift of sweets or miniature toys in memory of the Innocents lost to Herod with a note saying “Innocent little dove who allowed yourself to be deceived, knowing that on this day, nothing should be lent.”

New Year's Eve (Ano Vienjo Ano Nueva)
What would a celebration in Mexico be without music, dancing, skyrockets, fireworks? Not a celebration in Mexico ! The New Year is ushered in with an abundance of noise, of wonderful fireworks and hundreds of skyrockets.

One may encounter a bit of a problem driving about the village, as logs or cars block off sections of streets where neighbors, friends and families celebrate in the street with huge bonfires, music, food and dancing. These parties may well last till dawn. One charming tradition is that one should eat twelve grapes, one with each stroke of the chiming bell, for luck in the coming 12 months. New Year's Day is just a quiet and empty, and unearthly on the streets of the villages as Christmas Day as the Mexicans recover from the parties of the night before.