Tag Archives: Christmas in Mexico

Christmas in Mexico–Los Santos Inocentes

In our area, December 28, Holy Innocents’ Day, doesn’t get a lot of attention because it falls during Christmas break but I would be remiss to not make mention of the Mexican version of April Fools’ Day.

With such a benign name (Los Santos Inocentes) it’s hard to believe that this day was originally set to commemorate baby boys killed by King Herod in Bethlehem after he realized he had been “tricked” by the traveling astrologers. (Matthew 2:16)  So since the mighty King Herod found himself outwitted, the custom of practical jokes evolved.

Not only are there jokes galore, but you also must be leery of lending anything on this day since the borrower has no obligation to return it again with reference to the deceit by the wise men.  King Herod had requested that once the child was found, the wise men should return to inform him so that Herod “may also go and pay him homage.” King Herod more than likely lent the weary travelers food and supplies, perhaps even gifts to give the Christ child but the wise men were “warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path” leaving Herod without any returns. (Matthew 2)  Thus you might hear “Inocente palomita te dejaste engañar hoy por ser día 28 en nadie debes confiar” (Innocent dove you allowed someone to trick you. Today being the 28th, you should trust in no one).

Of course, Herod also was tricked since even after ordering the murder of boys under the age of two in Bethlehem, Jesus survived because Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt. He took Mary and her son “by night” (Matthew 2:13-15) and escaped. So haha Herod?  The jokes on you.

I believe the biggest joke is the date chosen by the Catholic church.  The date of the massacre was calculated on the basis that Jesus was born on the evening of December 24 (which has been established as pretty shoddy guesswork) and the visit of the wise men occurred on February 6, (which again is without rhyme nor reason.) Since the infanticide of a few Jewish babies wasn’t considered important enough for historians of the time to record, the actual date is unknown but because it was a holy day at the time the Catholic Church arrived in Mexico, a holiday it remains.

Like I mentioned, this holiday doesn’t get a lot of attention in our area. I’d love to hear about places that make a big tadoo about this one.  Apparently, once upon a time, the jolly ol’ English custom was to whip your kids in bed in the morning on the Feast of the Holy Innocents Day to remind the children to be mournful.  Ahh–the good old days!

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12 days of Guadalupe on Instagram

Jill Douglas set our little SOTB Bloggers group a challenge this month, to find and share 12 images of the Virgen de Guadalupe on Instagram.

You might wonder why I participated since I’m not Catholic, nor Mexican, and the iconic image doesn’t inspire a spiritual connection to either the Virgin Mary or Tonantzin in me. However, I can appreciate good artwork when I see it, whatever its theme. After all, historically, artists made their bread and butter from murals, statues, and paintings commissioned by the church. For example, Da Vinci created the religious masterpiece The Last Supper and was not what was considered an orthodox Christian and Michelangelo who painted the glorious Sistine Chapel was condemned by the Pope for his religious beliefs.  

Be that as it may, I accepted the challenge and set off in search of La Virgen. The nearest town, Moroleon has whitewashed nearly all religious drawings with the exception of the churches themselves. As I wanted to capture a people’s version of La Virgen, I wasn’t interested in tromping into churches to snap pictures there. So my husband took me to Uriangato, which as you know has a different feel altogether. (Uriangato, Fogatas, tapetes and San Miguel Arcangel) Sure enough, nearly every corner had a shrine in honor of La Virgen de Guadalupe and I could take my pick.

It was evident that each mural was lovingly maintained. Flowers and plants were well-kept. The image was often covered by a roof or had evidence of periodic touching up. And the artwork was good, very good. Some murals only depicted her Majesty, Nuestra Señora la Reina de Mexico, herself. Others included Juan Diego, who was the first to speak with the apparition way back in 1531.  Still others included a crucified Jesus or a prayer asking for the Protectress’s blessing.

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Here is a composite of the 12 pictures I shared on Instagram leading up to today, el Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, which the feast day that kicks off the holiday season known as Guadalupe-Reyes Maraton here in Mexico.

If you enjoyed these pictures, check out the #12daysofguadalupe participants below:

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Jill Michelle Douglas

Surviving Mexico

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Christmas in Mexico–Villancicos

singing to baby jesus.jpg

Villancicos are religious songs now primarily sung and performed during the Christmas season in Mexico. Quite a number of the villancicos played nowadays are just Spanish translated versions of English Christmas carols. However, there are some quite unique songs. Many of these songs came from Spain and were brought to Mexico during the conquest.

One of the songs that I was delighted to hear this past Christmas was  Los peces en el río en el río–literally The Fish in the River. The students at the school I work at did a delightful performance this past Christmas Event. Actually, they performed the song twice since there was no communication between the program coordinator and the music teacher prior to the evening’s performance. That does seem to happen a lot where I work. Anyway, in the song, the Virgin Mary calmly goes about her pre-birth preparations while fish jump in jubilation in the nearby river in anticipation of the event. She brushes out her hair, she washes the diapers and washes herself.

The English translations are my own, so it probably won’t match anything you might search out on Wiki. The translated versions I came across didn’t really make any sense.

Los peces en el río

La Virgen se está peinando
entre cortina y cortina.
Los cabellos son de oro
y el peine de plata fina.

The Virgin is combing her hair
you can see her between the curtains.
Her hair is golden
and the comb the finest silver.

ESTRIBILLO:
Pero mira cómo beben
los peces en el río.
Pero mira cómo beben
por ver a Dios nacido.
Beben y beben
y vuelven a beber.
Los peces en el río
por ver a Dios nacer.

CHORUS:
But look how they drink
the fish in the river.
But look how they drink
to see God born.
They drink, and they drink
and come back to drink some more,
the fish in the river,
to see God born.

La Virgen lava pañales
y los tiende en el romero,
los pajarillos cantando,
y el romero floreciendo.

ESTRIBILLO

The Virgin washes diapers
and hangs them on rosemary branches.
The little birds are singing
and the rosemary is blossoming.

CHORUS

La Virgen se está lavando
con un poco de jabón.
Se le han picado las manos,
manos de mi corazón.

ESTRIBILLO

The Virgin is washing herself
with a little bit of soap.
Her hands are irritated (or sore)
the hands of my love.

CHORUS

Another song that isn’t in your typical English Christmas carol list is Campana sobre Campana (The Bells of Bethlehem). Again, this song was repeated twice during the Christmas event at my school, but hey, who’s counting?

In this song, it talks about the bells of Bethlehem rung by angles when the Christ child was born. Of course, there is no more historical evidence for the heavenly bell ringing than the drinking fish of the previous song, but when has that ever stopped anyone?

Campana sobre Campana

Campana sobre campana
y sobre campana una
asómate a la ventana
verás a un niño en la cuna.


One bell after another
and after another–one (1 o’clock)
Come to the window
to see a child in the crib

(Coro)

Belén
Campanas de Belén
que los ángeles tocan
que nuevas me traéis.


Chorus:

Bethlehem
Bells of Bethlehem
that the angles ring
What news have you brought me?


Recogido tu rebaño
a donde vas pastorcillo?
Voy a llevar la portal
requesón, manteca y vino

(coro)

Among your flock (or with your flock)
where are you going little shepherd?
I’m taking the path (or way)
bringing cheese, lard, and wine.

Chorus

Campana sobre campana
y sobre campana dos
asómate a la ventana
porque esta naciendo Dios

(Coro)

One bell after another
and after bell –two. (2 o-clock)
Come to the window
because God is being born.

Chorus

Caminando a media noche
¿donde caminas pastor?
le llevo al niño que nace
como a Dios mi corazón

(coro)

Walking at midnight,
where are you walking to shepherd?
I bring my love to the child that
was born as God

Chorus

Campana sobre campana
y sobre campana tres
en una cruz a esta hora
del niño va a padecer

(Coro)

One bell after another
and after bell –three. (3 o-clock)
On a cross, at this hour
the child will suffer.

Chorus

I’m happy to report that the art of composing villancicos has not died out. I have been fortunate enough to work with maestro Sergio and have heard his original compositions performed. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Video 1

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Christmas in México–Elementary Event

carolers

After the morning’s kindergarten event, I went and hid in my classroom awhile to rest. The elementary event was scheduled for 6 pm the same day. It made for an extremely LONG day.

Initially, I thought I would be singing with fourth, fifth and sixth graders, so I picked the song “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” I imagined a mini-skit. A group of carolers arrives at a house, and a couple comes out to enjoy the singing, afterward rewards the singers with a little food and drink. Seems simple enough, right?

I expect you have read enough of my posts to realize by now that things don’t often go as I imagine. The principal informed me on December 1 that I would be responsible for teaching the carol to third grade as the rest of the students already had parts in the Christmas play. That only proved my suspicion again that he doesn’t like me. Third grade is a particularly challenging group. I have been struggling to teach them since the beginning of the school year. They are all very intelligent but so concerned about other students in the class that they spend most of the class either insulting other students or getting up to hit the insulter, making discipline very challenging.

Of course, the first rehearsal went poorly. I sent for the principal. He’s a big guy and makes quite an imposing sight. When he entered, the class quieted down enough for me to explain what we were going to do. I had to redesign the skit. Now instead of a couple in the house, I would have the girls be the householders. There are only 3 of them. The rest of the class are boys. So the boys would be the carolers.

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Now we needed a house. I asked my art friend Claudia to make me a house. She outdid herself on this project. I ended up with a nearly club house-sized gingerbread house. I told the kids that they were in charge of protecting the house from the other students as kind of reverse psychology. It didn’t work. The first time I showed the third graders their house, various adornments were damaged. I had Claudia come again and fix it. I didn’t take it out of hiding until the dress rehearsal, then I hid it again, just in case. I wanted it to at least survive the event. It did cost me a pretty penny after all.

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I also had the kids cover a cup with aluminum foil for the “cup of good cheer” and make a music book with the words inside–just in case they couldn’t remember the song when they were actually in front of a crowd.

We spent 2 weeks rehearsing daily. Oh, the agony of it! I had the boys form two lines, short and tall, and put the most troublesome at the head of the line. Every single day, I had to remind them what they were supposed to do. Line up, enter the scene, spread out, say Merry Christmas, look at me and my finger counting to begin and sing. Then pause after the request for figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer for the girls to bring their refreshments. Look at me again, watch for my finger counting, sing the last verse and exit stage right. It felt like I was trying to teach a herd of cattle ballet.

I only agreed to continue if the principal was present in each and every rehearsal. He didn’t have any choice to accept. That helped some.

Two days before the event we had the full rehearsal. It was just plain awful. We waited around 40 minutes before it was even our turn. By that time, the kids were running around much like chickens with their heads cut off. I finally got them more or less arranged, and then the clown in the back started to sing as fast as he possibly could, throwing off the rhythm of the rest of the singers. I threw in the towel with that. I just walked off, told the coordinator that 3rd grade was not able to participate at this time, and hauled my gingerbread house off the scene.

The next morning, I gave it another go. They did everything exactly right! I was so hyped! Now, to just get through that afternoon’s performance!

I arrived early. Actually, I didn’t ever leave. No one came to pick up little P after school, so I stayed with her until I was able to get ahold of someone at 4:30, three hours after school let out. As the kids began arriving for the event, I positioned myself right next to my gingerbread house. I was determined to see that nobody knocked it over and trampled on it prior to the event. I glared at every little brother or sister who dared approach. The school kids gave me a wide berth as well.

The event started late, as expected. The play part went just fine–no major mishaps. Suddenly it was my turn, and I wasn’t ready! I hurried over to the kids and marched them around the audience. We had a pile up at the gingerbread house. The boys wanted their own music books. I kept telling them that it didn’t matter whose book it was, the music was the same, but it did delay things a bit.

All three girls were present. However, more than half the boys were missing. Well, it couldn’t be helped. We’d perform as we were. They did fine–singing acapella rather than with music–everybody was happy–especially me now that it was over. I marched them back to their places and sat down to enjoy the next few songs performed by the music teacher.

Santa Claus made an appearance again–this time with Mrs. Claus. She read a longish letter that asked for health for all the teachers and the director for Christmas. The kids received a bag of candies. Fights broke out in the receiving line and Santa had to step in to settle the kids down. Then it was officially finished.

The director invited everyone to enjoy corundas and ponche, only the corundas hadn’t arrived yet. I went and made myself useful serving ponche while keeping an eye on the gingerbread house. Three-fourths of the attendees left after their cup of ponche, off to their own posadas. The corundas did finally arrive and those of us that remained enjoyed them immensely.

I headed home at about 7 pm. My frigid moto ride was considerably longer due to road closures and posada parades. I nearly wrecked when I met a procession headed by a giant illuminated star on a stick at the corner. As I got further out of town, there were fewer hazards to contend with. I got home and went straight to bed.

See why teachers aren’t big fans of school events?

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