Blog Post 25 - Christmas in Mexico

Mon 22 Feb 2016 22:14

Blog Post #25. – Christmas in Mexico


24:09.35 N – 110:19.57 W

La Paz, Mexico



Mexico celebrates the holidays differently than we do in the United States. It is much more traditional here. Mexicans start celebrating the Christmas holiday’s on the 16th of December and it continues on until the 10th of February with beginning of Lent. There is not anywhere near the hype and commercialism that we have in the US. There aren’t a lot of last minute sales and deals and discounts.  It is all about family and food.   On the 16th of December the Posada’s start. They are holiday parties that can include family, friends or colleagues and the Posada’s do not end until mid January. Any reason for a family to get together for a party is good enough for the Mexican people.  I was surprised to learn that Mexican’s do not celebrate Christmas in our American sense until the 6th of January on Three King’s Day (Reyes Magos or Dia de Los Reyes). The Three Kings, also known as the Wise Men are the ones that give the gifts to kids and not Santa Claus; just as they did to baby Jesus.  The gifts are either given on the night of January 5th (Epiphany Eve) or the morning of January 6th. They do not give or receive presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Those days are reserved to celebrate Jesus’s birthday and should not be confused with giving or receiving  presents to anyone other than Jesus. There are numerous dishes, punches and desserts that they traditionally serve for the holidays. The Three King’s festivities in Mexico include families getting together to share a ring shaped sweet bread called “Roca de Reyes” with a small white figurine in it of baby Jesus. Whoever gets the figurine in their piece of cake is supposed to host the family celebration for the Candelaria feast of February 2nd.  There are special cakes that are beautifully decorated, soups and stews and every kind of roast meat and fowl you can think of. One of the things that is representative of Christmas here is the piñata. It is not just any piñata, it is a 7 point star pinata. The stars are meant to represent the 7 mortal sins of the Bible, sloth, gluttony, wrath, pride, greed, lust and envy. You are supposed to smash the sins off the pinata with a stick to rid yourself of them. You see these pinata’s for sale everywhere.


I had a hard time with Christmas this year. I intentionally did not bring any decorations or ornaments with us. It seemed silly to carry them and I wanted to start a Christmas tradition anew with our cruising life. But I was not sure where to start. I stressed over it for a couple of weeks leading up to Christmas. There is no way we could have a live Christmas tree on our boat, so that was out. Jirig insisted that we not put lights on the outside of the boat or on the mast and any sort of blow up Santa or reindeer on the deck was absolutely out for him. He hates the way boats look when they are decorated like that. Probably too many Christmas Parades in Marinas colored his judgement. So what to do? Finally he got in the spirit and helped me. Jirig is much more creative than I am so having his support both creatively and financially was important.


For those of you that have been on our boat, you know that there is a large salon, with lots of flat surfaces (for a boat, that is) and in the salon there is a large border of wood paneling that goes all around the ceiling at the top. Since we could not have a tree I thought why not use this border to hang ornaments and string lights from?  I had seen some really cool ornaments at a traditional Mexican pottery gallery and bought 5 of them. They were really cool, handmade clay ornaments covered with bright colored glaze. They were really beautiful. So we started there. Figure 1 - Nico's Xmas sleepoverWe took the bus to Walmart, where we had heard there was a large selection of Christmas ornament and supplies, where we were hoping to add some supplies. Not. Maybe there had been some before but there was nothing but rifled through junk. We did not want to spend a lot of money, so our options were slim. Nico’s friend Journey, from the SV Namaste, who is very artsy crafty suggested we go to Waldo’s, Mexico’s version of the $.99 cents store. At this point we did not have high expectations nor have much choice, it was December 23rd and we could not just keep taking a taxi from one place to the next hoping to find something we liked. We arrived at  Waldo’s with low expectations. We got lucky. They had some stuff that would work. We picked up some more ornaments to supplement the ceramic ones I already had, got some interior lights and  some red brocade ribbon. Then Jirig found the figurine section. He was on a roll. He picked up little ceramic Santa Clauses, reindeers, snowmen and whatever else he could find. We were having a blast at Waldo’s! We brought all of our stuff back to the boat and got started. First we put up the lights and then the ribbon and the ornaments. Even Nico got involved, a task for which he had showed no interest in since he was very small. We blasted the music and rocked out. It was really special, an event we will not soon forget. The boat looked great. The lights were up, everything was bright and cheery, it was just perfect.                                         



Ispiritu Santo 033On Christmas Eve we were invited to our friends Mark & Cindy’s from Delta Swizzler for a potluck dinner. There were several other cruiser friends there as well and a good time was had by all. For Christmas dinner I had gotten ambitious and decided that I was going to make a prime rib roast. That is a tall order on a boat. I went to the best butcher in La Paz and ordered a rib roast that would feed 4. He gave me a 3.6 kilogram roast! It was enough to feed 10! With the language barrier I just did not have the skills to make the butcher understand that it was too big and to cut it smaller. It was like a side of beef and just as heavy. I felt every kilo of it as I had to drag it home in my shopping bag, all 2 miles of it,  and I was walking. I had never made a rib roast before and I anticipated a challenge in a marine oven. I had never cooked anything but bread and brownies in it before. I spent Christmas Day cooking while Jirig and Nico went out with a group of friends to swim with the whale sharks. Dinner came out fabulous, the oven did not disappoint and we had a feast.


Figure 3 - Diving on Ispiritu SantoDaniel arrived on 12/28 and we immediately set out for Espiritu Santo Island, our old stomping grounds at this point. We showed him all of our favorite spots, we snorkeled, he and his Dad dove and we met up with our friends, Bill and Michele and their 2 college aged daughters from Adagio and went swimming with the sea lions at Los Islotes island. The kids took long hikes, Michelle and I combed the beaches for shells then we headed back to La Paz to celebrate New Years.  The kids really hit it off and spent the next few days exploring La Paz before Adagio left to cruise up the Sea of Cortez.


I have always wanted to go to Todos Santos.  It is an artist colony on the Pacific coast about 50 miles west of La Paz.  It has its own fresh water source coming from the Sierra Laguna mountains and it is lush and green. It is sort of like Marin County or Venice Beach or Berkeley all in one. There are lots of people who have dropped out, moved there because they loved it and did not want to leave and were using their creative skills to make a living. The town looks as it must have 150 years ago. It is a traditional Mexican town, replete with its own square, a quaint little church, a traditional town square and tons of little shops where you can buy real Mexican arts and crafts, not the junk you see everywhere else in Mexico. As it is an artists colony there is a plethora of galleries. There is handmade pottery, paintings and sculptures all tastefully shown in galleries housed in 150 year old buildings. Sprinkled in with the galleries and the shops are some great restaurants. You can have an expensive meal, a traditional Mexican meal or a sandwich or burger in a sports bar. Figure 4 - Daniel Todos Santos


I loved Todos Santos so much I was determined to return. Jirig and Nico not so much. There is only so much shopping and gallery viewing that they can tolerate. Fancy restaurants are not their cup of tea either.


Lucky for me I was going to have the opportunity to return as my sister, Liz  was coming to visit.







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