December 24, 2010

Christmas in Mexico: Noche Buena

Christmas Eve is a huge celebration in Mexico. This is the night when the parties and feasts occur; and when the children can expect a few small gifts. At midnight, there is La Misa del Gallo (The Rooster's call), in the form of church-bells ringing. After Midnight Mass, the party goes on. After all, an old Spanish verse reads: 'Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no es noche de dormir' ('Tonight is the good night, and it is not meant for sleeping').

The Ani Family enjoy Noche Buena

The cast and crew of 'Starstruck: The Nationwide Invasion' enjoy their Noche Buena, on set, in 2007

Noche Buena, as you may have gathered, means 'Good Night'. This isn't to be confused with buenas noches, which is the general 'goodnight' that is said throughout the year at bedtime. Noche Buena is Christmas Eve. It marks the good/fantastic/wondrous night, when the Christ child was born into the world.

This is the evening when Mexican families, and their guests, gather en masse. Depending upon the family, the meal might be served before or after the Midnight Mass. There are bound to be some traditional dishes on the table, in particular, Pavo Trufado de Navidad (Christmas Turkey with Truffles). Some of the food and drinks on offer may be: tamales; atole; Bacalao a la Vizcaína (Salt Cod with Red Pepper Sauce); Revoltijo de Romeritos (Shrimps and Wild Greens in Mole Sauce); Macarrones Yucatecos (Baked Macaroni) and many others beside.

Alcohol and hot drinks are free-flowing for the adults. These are not only used to lubricate the celebrations, but also in the toasts. Brindis is the Mexican word for toasts. Naturally there are brindis to the Holy Family, in whose honor this celebration is being held. But there are plenty more brindis throughout the night, ranging from the poignant to the downright silly. Anything that a Mexican, half addled on tradition Ponche, can think of to toast will be toasted with gusto!

The staff of Radio Lí­der-Punto engage in bindis.

For the children, there will be Piñatas, but also small gifts. For many, in the Spanish speaking world, presents aren't exchanged on Christmas Day, as they are in some countries. That all tends to happen on January 6th, in an entirely different celebration. However, Christmas Eve is also good for a gift or two, if you're a child.

Mexican children will have encountered Santa Claus, but he's a recent import from America and Canada. Instead, they will have had half an eye on El Niño Dios (the Holy Child), who watches their conduct to see if they've been naughty or nice.

Also part of the festivities will be hand-held sparklers. Some families might go all out and have a firework display.

Everything stops when the church-bells ring. The entire party leaves the house and makes their way to the church. Church services are always well attended in Mexico, but the Midnight Mass, on Noche Buena, is unmissable. It will be standing room only, as the whole community gathers together to honor this special night.

Then it's back to various homes, so the joyous celebrations can continue into the early hours of Christmas Day. That day becomes the day of rest. Left-overs constitute the food, as everyone is still too full to move from the night before. This is the day to investigate some good old Mexican hangover cures.

On behalf of everyone at Endless Tours, may I wish you all a resounding Feliz Navidad!

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