December 24th is the final night of Las Posadas. (See Celebrating Christmas—Las Posadas) Therefore, the singing, prayers, and piñata are all part of the evening’s activities. Unlike the other 8 days, there is a Misa de Gallo (midnight mass) afterward. Traditionally, this is also when the image of the baby Jésus is placed in the manger of the nativity scene. But basically, this night is dedicated to the Christmas Eve feast. Some homes serve traditional foods such as pozole or tamales, but other families have become more Americanized and serve ham or turkey.
However, my husband’s family is del rancho (from the country) and therefore, we did things just a bit differently. When my mother-in-law was alive, it was customary for all the in-México family to gather together in order to enjoy the largesse of the out-of-México family. This generosity was usually in the form of some money wired and the subsequent purchase of some meat and tequila. We would meet up after mass at the house up the hill in La Yacata, for the BYOB (Bring Your Own Bucket) affair. The buckets were arranged around a bonfire big enough to scorch the bejeezus out of both the meat and party-goers, but it was unheard of to have this gathering indoors. My mother-in-law would serve the meat, and I as was one her least favorite, I had to be content with a mere sliver of bistek (beef) and a few greasy tortillas. Meanwhile, the menfolk, and some of the womenfolk gallivanted around with their tequila and poked at the bonfire every so often.
When my son was smaller, I used his bedtime to retire after my measly meal. I didn’t see any reason to stay up and outside ‘til the wee hours of the morning in the cold. My absence, other than a snide remark or two about my delicacy as I left, was hardly noted. Since the death of my mother-in-law, any warped togetherness my husband’s family ever had disappeared and we no longer congregate around the bonfire perched on paint buckets. The past two years we have made feeble attempts to institute another sort of family gathering for Christmas Eve, but it’s too soon to say if a new family tradition has been adopted.
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