New Years In Mexico

Things are different here, get with the program
BY: REN DRAKE HILL

The winter holiday season continues into January in Mexico, and doesn’t end until sometime in February. That’s how much these folks like to party!

New Year’s eve is celebrated with fireworks, and bells tolling at midnight, and mucho musica. It’s time to remember joys of the past year, and time to put the disappointments behind us, and start the year anew. At midnight, revelers consume “las doce uvas de la suerte”, or the 12 grapes of luck, pairing each bit of fruit with a wish for the New Year. Can’t find fresh grapes? Raisins can do in a pinch.

To recount a few of the more prominent customs: a complete housecleaning is in order to start the new year fresh. This year I’m between two houses…literally, and neither one will be clean on January 1.

 Use your best table settings for your end of the year meal. Mine are packed in one of 18 boxes labeled “buffet.” Toast the New Year with sparkling wine or cider, or even 7-Up. It’s the bubbles that are important as they represent the spark of happiness – and we all need that spark.

Last year I wrote about traditions, such as sweeping dirt out of the house to cleanse for the New Year. Add to this, sweeping INTO the house 12 coins to “purchase” prosperity for the New Year. Can’t sweep them over the threshold? Just pick them up and chuck ‘em in…just don’t hit the cat!

Lists are good. I like lists; just ask my husband. I’ve got lists all over the house, er, houses. Write down the great things that happened during the year, just to solidify them in your memory. Write a separate list of the failures, or things that didn’t go quite as planned. Hold that list over a candle and burn it away. It won’t destroy the memory, but you’ve committed it to the year 2016 which is gone. Poof!

Dia de los Reyas, or Day of the Kings on January 6, the true 12th Day of Christmas used to be much more celebratory, as that was the traditional day that Mexican children received gifts. While Catholic adults celebrate the Epiphany, children wake to find shoes placed by the door the night before filled with toys and sweets. By tradition, children wrote to the Three Kings as children around the world write to their versions of Santa Claus, asking for goodies. That is, until the mammoth commercialism of Christmas seeped into Mexico from the  United States.  Did you and I facilitate that creep? I think so.

On this day piñatas are broken to illustrate the great peril the baby Jesus was in, from the King’s dark forces. Hey, kids like to break things; it’s a match made in heaven. Crown-shaped pastries, roscas, are consumed, with one lucky person to find an image of the baby Jesus hidden inside. I don’t really know how lucky this person is because the winner is set with the task of providing a celebratory meal on Candlemas (February 2), with tamales and cocoa for the whole crowd

And candles do play an important role on Candlemas. These are dark days; the mid-point between the winter solstice and the vernal (spring) equinox, and some believe the true start of spring, as plants are awakening from their dormancy. But don’t get any fancy ideas about burning that 2017 list you created on January 1. There’s some pretty good stuff there, even if your husband thought the new watercolor still life you just painted looked like a pile of dirty laundry. Don’t give up.  It’s 2017 and you made it…live it up!