Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Felize Navidad"
Location: Central America
Tree Type: Cultural

Decorations:

  • Red and White Poinsettias
  • Candles

Traditions: The Christmas season begins on December 16th. Mexican households are decorated with flowers, evergreens and colored paper lanterns. A nativity set (Pesebre) is also set up in the house. The pesebre or El Nacimiento is the focal point of the household's Christmas celebration. Pesebre can be as simple as three figures making up the holy family or as complex as the entire city of Bethlehem. Each night a procession (Las Posada) commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph and their search for lodging for the night. In some areas, groups of villagers (Santos Peregrinos) or Holy pilgrims assemble each night. Carrying candles and chanting songs, they go from house to house looking for lodging. At every house the pilgrims are refused. When they have finished the procession they return home to kneel at the Pesebre.

After prayers are said, a party (Fiesta) is held. Children from the procession are blindfolded in turn, spun around and given three chances to break a suspended decorated earthenware pot (Pinata), The pinata is filled with nuts, fruit and candy. When it is broken the children scramble to pick up the spilt goodies.

The poinsettia is native to Mexico and was incorporated into the Christmas tradition in the 17th century when Franciscan monks used it in connection with their Christmas celebrations. Legend states that a boy named Palo was going to church in his village to visit the Nativity scene. He realized he had nothing to give the Christ Child. He saw some green branches, which he gathered. As he approached the manger scene the other children laughed at him and his meager gift of weeds. But when laid the green branches on the manger, a star shaped red flower appeared on each one of the branches. In Mexico the plant is known as "The Flower of The Blessed Night"(La Flor de Noche Buena), because it resembles the star of Bethlehem. The red flowered plant was much admired by the 19th century American ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinset, that he took them back to the United States. It is after him that the poinsettia is named.