Category Archives: Mexican Holidays

How We Spend Thanksgiving Day in Mexico

How We Spend Thanksgiving Day in Mexico

By Neva Gurrusquieta

Ah, there’s a chill in the air! Everything is pumpkin spice flavored, and I do mean everything!  Time to break out the fuzzy sweaters, the boots, and scarves.  The holidays are coming!  Some people are starting to get Christmas fever. (I do admit to watching at least one Christmas movie already), but there’s one more stop on the holiday train first.  Thanksgiving!! 

Back home, the regular college football season is winding down, and next weekend, the diehard fans in my family will watch the final game of a disappointing season for the home team.

In recent years, because our family has grown so much, we often celebrated Thanksgiving on the weekend prior, then my mom would take off with her friends to go to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  

My mother always kept a list on her fridge, a list of dishes she was preparing for our huge family, and who else was bringing what.  If I close my eyes, I can see her handwriting. She always made a turkey, a ham, at least three dishes of dressing, a big pot of gravy, and her famous potato salad. It was one of my brother’s favorites, so she always made it when he came home, and she continued the tradition even after he passed away.

Besides the non-negotiable dishes, she would make other favorites like corn pudding and collards. One sister would bring a broccoli casserole, another a green bean casserole, another deviled eggs.  I always brought Brussel sprouts for me and my brother in law, and some other dish which may or may not get sampled by the traditionalists at our table. Eventually, it became a challenge to see if someone would dare to try my dish each year. Chipotle butternut squash with asparagus and ginger, anyone?  Delish, but not traditionally southern, I know.

There was always a selection of homemade desserts which varied from year to year, chocolate cake, cheesecake, brownies, pecan pie, chocolate pie, coconut pie, and sweet potato pie. No pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie.  Just sayin’.

And to drink?  Sweet tea, of course!  But there was always a side pitcher of unsweetened tea for one of my sisters, and a couple of Coca-Colas for one of my brothers-in-law.

No Thanksgiving table would be complete without cranberry sauce of some kind, whether you serve jellied cranberry sauce or make your own from scratch with fresh, frozen, or dried whole berries. With eighty million cans sold every year and the nostalgia associated with this simple pleasure, I’m not alone when I opt for jellied for the Thanksgiving meal. 

Oh, wait…I’m in Mexico. Jellied cranberry sauce, if you can find it, isn’t cheap. The only pumpkin spice you’ll find around here is at Starbucks.  No fuzzy sweaters or boots or scarves. No college football. No Thanksgiving Day off. It’s a regular workday, a regular school day.

So what is an expat to do?  Lots of expats in small close communities do potluck dinners with friends since it’s not likely that all their extended families will make the journey for this most American of holidays. Some of those who are not closely connected with other expats are preparing the traditional meal for their new neighbors, or for close friends and family.

Some expats will order meals prepared by local caterers, others will simply eat out. We live in Queretaro, in central Mexico, and although there are expats here, I was unable to find a single restaurant offering an American style Thanksgiving dinner, and only one community event hosted by a private international school in their gymnasium for their students and families.  By contrast,  the large expat population in Yucatan creates a huge demand for holiday dishes, and a wide variety of options is available to those who live in that area, as we hope to do soon. 

There are only two options for us, prepare a huge, expensive meal for just the two of us, or not. We choose not.  The turkey alone would cost more than a day’s wages ($1.50/lb 15 lbs) so we would have to be in a much better position financially to throw that amount of money at one meal.

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We could purchase a turkey from a local farmer like we did a few years ago, but the effort takes an entire day and almost as much money. However, if anyone is so inclined, it is certainly an experience you won’t forget. I made a huge and quite expensive Thanksgiving meal that year with all the fixings to impress my in-laws and extended family.  I used Chef Anne Burrell’s brining recipe which I had used in prior years, so I knew it was going to be fantastic. The food was a huge hit with my husband’s family in southern Mexico, but they had to be convinced that I cooked it. Even with several eyewitnesses, I think some of them only pretended to believe so as not to be rude.

So, for us, there will be no big Thanksgiving meal this year. Instead, we will be celebrating the annual commemoration of the start of the Mexican Revolution on the Monday before Thanksgiving. My husband has a rare day off, and the typical celebratory activities for this holiday include little more than a beer and a nap.   There is even a “Black Friday” equivalent, “El Buen Fin”, or The Good Weekend” which we will also be skipping this year.

To all our fiercely loved family and friends back in the states, even though we are choosing to let Thursday pass as an ordinary food day this year, we will most certainly be expressing our thanks and gratitude for our many blessings, an especially poignant remembrance for us this year. No matter how you choose to spend Thanksgiving Day this year, I hope that our hearts as a nation will all begin to bend towards kindness and grace and that those heart attitudes will go with us throughout this entire holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Neva Online

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Filed under Guest Blogger Adventures, Mexican Holidays, Southern Comfort Food Mexican Style

An Evolution of El Dia de Los Muertos

It has come to my attention that there is some debate about the proper name of the events that go on in Mexico on November 2.  Apparently there is a section of the population, although I’m unclear whether that population is Mexican or of Mexican descent, that believe the name is Dia de Muertos instead of the longer El Dia de los Muertos.

It is true that language is fluid and constantly evolving and the shortening of a name is a common occurrence.  After all, in the English language, All Hallows’ Evening is now known as Halloween and bears scant resemblance to how it was originally observed.  So it seems El Dia de los Muertos is undergoing a transition as well.

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For example, this year, our town that aspires to be a city, had a whole weekend of “Dia de Muertos” events in addition to the traditional altares en el jardin (alters in the center garden).  It was unprecedented!  There was a parade, just like in the James Bond movie, (well, almost) and a Catrina/Catrine best costume competition and even bikers dressed as skeletons out for an after-dark bike ride.

That’s not to say that El Dia de Los Muertos has never changed before. After the Spanish conquest, the original date for this celebration of life was changed to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Instead of obsidian disks, glass mirrors are brought to the cemetery now with the hope of catching a glimpse of departed loved ones.  Walmart now makes the pan de muerto (bread of the dead) instead of local bakers which left me without a sample of that sweet bread this year.  Sigh.  “Dia de Muertos” has become trendy and left behind the traditional El Dia de Los Muertos in many areas. Tourists flock to cemeteries to gawk at the tombs of the dead, adorned with love and cempasúchil (marigold) flower petals.

Even with all these new-fangled additions brought in locally, on November 1, known locally as El Dia de Los Angelitos, and on November 2, El Dia de los Muertos, everyone was en familia (with their families) at the panteon (cemetery).  I suppose the Civic fathers knew enough not to directly interfere with these customs and for this reason scheduled the events over the weekend instead of the high holy days.  

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And for us, it was still personal and private.  We visited my husband’s grandparents’ tomb in Cerano in the morning. We visited my husband’s mother’s tomb in the afternoon.  We left flowers and pictures and talked about our memories so that they will not die the third death yet, the death that comes when there is no one left to keep them alive in their hearts.

See Also El Dia de Los Muertos, Tio Felipe, The Day of the Dead)

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Filed under Death and all its trappings, Mexican Holidays, Religion

New Year’s Resolutions

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Mexico has some interesting ideas about New Year’s Eve and how you can get what you want later in the year. What do you think of this list of dos and don’ts from Focus on Mexico?

**Wear red underwear for love. Wear yellow underwear to assure happiness and good moments. It is better if the underwear is a gift from someone else. To have many new clothes during the year, wear your underwear backward. (In our part of Mexico, yellow underwear brings the wearer financial prosperity for the coming year.)
**Eat lentils for prosperity. Make a little package of lentils and carry it in your purse all year long so you will have money.
**Walk out of your house with suitcases in your hands at midnight to make trips during the year. You can also walk around the block.
**To have your wishes come true in the new year, eat 12 grapes during the 12 times the bells ring at midnight and make 12 wishes.
**Sweep the floor of your house through the door and out to avoid bad luck. (In our area of Mexico, there is a special cleansing called la Limpieza de las 7 Iglesias using holy water gathered from 7 churches during Semana Santa and chlorine)
**Throw a bucket of water out of your house to clean it from bad vibes.
**Sweep money inside to have prosperity. Put money in your shoes for prosperity.
** Write on a paper everything you don’t want anymore in your life like sadness, anger, etc… and then burn it.

This year, the Flores family bypassed every single one of these traditions. We didn’t even head up the hill for the yearly BYOB (bring your own bucket) family bonfire. And you know what? Nothing bad happened! At least, so far.

On the other hand, there are some new traditions in line with our resolutions that we’d like to implement. I have already begun the Transition Year, as I have dubbed 2016-2017. Along with some personal goals that will be revealed in due course, I have some blogging goals that begin today!

Each month, I will endeavor to find a Woman Writer in Mexico to feature and share with you. In line with starting things out right, this month’s inspiring woman writer is Monique Alvarez.

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“Your life is your adventure’ …say Yes to whatever beckons your heart. Make decisions that line up with your soul…..Push yourself past where you think you can go. Surprise yourself with what you can accomplish…..cherish your uniqueness. Create your world and fill it with all the things that make you happy.

With these inspiring words from “Success Redefined, Travel, Motherhood, and Being the Boss” by Monique Alvarez, I challenge you to rethink your New Year’s resolutions and traditions too.

Use these inspiring questions from Monique to define your resolutions and make your change:

**What are 3-5 things you want to accomplish in the next year?
**What must you do in order to reach each one?
**What must happen for them to fall into place that you have no control over?
**What will it feel like when you accomplish these things?
**How will you celebrate when you accomplish them?
**What is one area of your life on which you’d like to focus over the next 6 months?
**How do you want to grow in this area of your life?
**What is one daily self-care practice you can start right now?

So, armed with our resolutions firmly in mind, let’s begin 2017, shall we?

blessing

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Filed under Book Reviews, Guest Blogger Adventures, Mexican Holidays

Chambelan at the party

No Quinceañera event would be complete without the party. Despite what you may imagine, it is a highly organized affair, well, at least until that last hour anyway. Remember, this tradition comes from formal presentation of a newly transitioned woman to society, dating back to 500 BC in Mesoamerica.

I was able to make short videos of the various activities at this Quinceañera, but the quality is not the best. I apologize for that. You’ll be able to see my gorgeous son though throughout!

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We arrived a bit earlier that the Quinceañera party. We wandered around a bit until we found tables that weren’t reserved. We were in the chambelan family section. Instead of sitting all at one table, however, each set of parents opted to have their own table for 8. Whatever! I did notice however that the resemblance each chambelan had to his father was marked and we could therefore easily identify the family of each.

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Before too long, the Quinceañera and her escorts arrived and made their formal entrance. My son’s pants seemed to be the only one out of the four that were so tight.

After the formal entry, there was the Ceremony of the Change of Shoes. The Quinceañera’s shoes are replaced with high heels, symbolic of her change in position from child to woman.

After she had received her new shoes, the Quinceañera was crowned. She will always be a princess.

The chambelanes next danced the waltz with Quinceañera. Traditionally, the chambelanes would be eligible young men who would have been considered appropriate mates and thus would have been allowed to pay court to the young woman.

Following the chambelanes’ waltz, was the father-daughter dance. In this case, I thought the choice of Total Eclipse of the Heart an inappropriate song, but hey, I didn’t pick the music. The godfather also took a spin around the dance floor with his goddaughter, but I didn’t record that.

The dancing paused for more ceremony at his point. Next, there was the presentation of flowers. The Quinceañera received two bouquets of blue roses. Then she presented a rose to each and every person who was considered essential to the event, parents, godparents, damas, chambelanes. It took awhile, and several of those so honored were not present, but finally, it was over.
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Following the flower bestowal was the Ceremony of the Last Doll. The Quinceañera was presented with a large doll dressed just like her as her final doll of childhood, based on a Maya tradition.

Also as a symbol of her new status, the Quinceañera was toasted with wine. At this party, only the godparents, parents and chambelanes received wine. The rest of us had to toast with soda.

Then followed the final waltz and exit of the Quinceañera and her escorts.

After a costume change, the Quinceañera, the chambelanes and the damas performed a modern dance sequence. The man of honor, the Quinceañera’s boyfriend, defended his lady love from the zombie like attentions of the unacceptable chambelanes. I didn’t think it was a fair fight. He whipped out a pistol and shot them at the end.

Finally, there was a solo dance by the Quinceañera. It was a bit hoochie-coo for a 15-year-old to perform in my opinion. But I’m not her mother.

Surprisingly enough, we were not served carnitas (pork) but fried chicken. It was ho-hum and certainly not worth the money I’d spent in costuming. After eating, there was a bit more dancing by the young adults.

As I sat there watching my son revel in the power of his youth and beauty, the music like a second heartbeat, I got a bit teary-eyed. How fast he had grown!

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My son dressed for his kindergarten graduation ceremony.

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My son dressed for his role as chambelan.

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Mexican Holidays, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms