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Christmas

Our First Christmas Posada in Mexico City

One of the many Mexican Christmas traditions I’m missing while back in the US this year is the posada. The season of posadas began on Friday, December 16th– nine days before Christmas.  When we lived in Mexico City, this marked both a time of holiday joy & grinchy anger, because of the sharp uptick in traffic (even worse than normal!).  My friends told me the reason traffic got SOOOO bad was due to all the chilangos driving to posadas after work each night, as well as shopping for last-minute Christmas presents. :) Unfortunately my social calendar never had nine days of parties in a row, but I did get to experience at least one authentic posada thanks to my MBA classmates!

We arrived at Grace & Lalo’s house to discover a well-dressed dog, which I took as a sign that this would be a successful night:

Santa dog = key ingredient for any posada. :)

They had their own outdoor patio heater, which was both awesomely warm & perfect for lighting sparklers on:

It's all fun & games until someone loses an eye, David.

And most impressively, they were even prepared with posada instructional booklets!

All the official posada wording you could ask for

These were important, because a key part of the posada is reliving Mary & Joseph’s experience trying to find shelter in Bethlehem. You set up half the party attendees outside pretending to be a very pregnant Mary & tired Joseph, and the other half stays inside telling M&J to go away & not bother them. FINALLY Joseph explains how he has the mother of our savior with him & then the jerks inside are like “Oh! Our bad! We didn’t know! In that case, come on in!”

The text for the exchange between Joseph/Mary + the meanie lodging folks. It almost feels like that experience you had at the Motel 6 outside of Albany when you showed up at 2AM without a reservation.

Once Mary & Joseph are let inside the house, then the party gets started with some singing, a good old fashioned piñata, food and drink.  I was pleased to see that much like the Lutheran church, no celebration is complete without the opportunity to burn you & those around you with small candles while singing:

Ceci makes the rounds with candles surrounded by their protective, holiday-themed mini-muffin wax drip guards

Alonso pauses to marvel at the flame of light burning so close to his fingers.

The celebratory singing begins!

Finally, the time for the piñata arrived. I took endless pleasure in watching the careful, laborious piñata set up.  I will confess to the fact that my motto of life in Mexico (“What could go wrong?”) flashed through my mind more than once… 😉

Things began with the transfer of the metal ladder over the electric fence. It was never clear to me whether it was truly on or off, which just made the process all the more exciting. :)

The other side of the piñata was secured to this ladder across the street.

To get a full visual of the piñata setup as well as hear a preview of the piñata-smashing theme song, you can check out this incredibly-dark video shot right before the first piñata contender made their way up to the plate:

Luckily the street that the piñata was strung across was not very busy... :)

Finally, it was my turn!!

Grace carefully instructs me in the ways of piñata-beating, while I am blindfolded with an artsy blue scarf.

I think I may have knocked loose one of the piñata's wings, which I promptly claimed for myself as a victory hat.

After the piñata excitement died down, we headed back to Grace’s deck and continued eating & drinking. The fan-favorite drink at any posada is ponche. It’s kind of the Mexican version of hot apple cider here in the US, but better (added alcohol optional but recommended). Check out some excellent recipes courtesy Maura, Silvia, and Lesley.

Good ponche, good people, good times. :)

It looks like we may miss the boat on hosting a posada this year here in Arlington, VA, but hope springs eternal for next year. Though I really need to work on mastering the lyrics to the piñata song.

Is anyone out there holding their own posada this week??  Would anyone like to bring over some tamales & ponche and we can have a quick posada, just the two of us? :)  In the interim, here’s to all my GMBA classmates who made our first & only posada so much fun! Check out more posada blog posts below…

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

What’s happening this December in Mexico City?

December in Mexico City is jam-packed with opportunities for celebration, highlighted by the Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on Dec 12, posadas, office parties, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, just to name a few.  I found during our time in DF that the Mexico City goverment (a.k.a. “GDF”– Gobierno del Distrito Federal) really gets into things around the holiday season. 2009 brought a new Guinness record for the World’s Largest Christmas Tree, followed quickly by the World’s Largest Rosca de Reyes.  What could possibly be on tap for December 2011, you may be wondering??

The record-breaking Christmas tree I saw in Mexico City in 2009 was definitely not a natural fir.

Well, the GDF just announced some of their plans for this year’s Christmas/New Year events.  I was curious how the general economic climate might affect things, but this hilarious sentence from the article in El Universal put my fears at ease: “Los festejos de Navidad y Año Nuevo en el último periodo de la administración de Marcelo Ebrard en la Ciudad de México serán más austeros y con menos atractivos espectaculares que las temporadas anteriores, excepto por el posible concierto de la estrella pop Britney Spears en el Ángel de la Independencia.”

Rough translation?  “The Christmas/New Year’s festivities in the last perod of the Ebrard administration in Mexico City will be more austere and have fewer spectacular attractions than previous seasons… except for the possible Britney Spears concert at the Angel of Independence.”  What??  While I’m not certain whether bringing in a washed-up-but-surely-still-high-dollar American pop star says to me “we are keeping a close eye on the budget,” I appreciate their enthusiasm nonetheless!  :)

You’ll obviously want to monitor for Britney confirmation (they are trying for concerts on Dec 1, 3 & 6, and we’ll know next week whether negotiations have been a success), but here’s what you should mark your calendars for in the interim.

Christmas Events in Mexico City 2011

  • Ice Skating in the Zocalo!  December 4th will be the first day that the 2400 square meter ice rink will be open in the Centro Historico.  Check out the photos of its construction.  The ice rink should be open through January 7, 2012.
  • 50-meter-tall Christmas Tree!  Alas, they won’t be trying for a new world record this time, but there will still be a sizeable tree to view in the Zocalo. You’ll be able to see it from the pedestrianized street, Francisco I. Madero.
  • December 4th Parade!  At 6PM, lit-up floats carrying athletes that competed in the Panamerican Games will depart from the Diana statue on Reforma & head towards the Zocalo.
  • **UPDATE–December 4th! Britney Spears free concert is confirmed!! It will be at 7PM @ the Monument to the Revolution.
  • Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12th!  Now this is not a GDF-sponsored event, but rather an annual pilgrimage to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City made by tens of thousands of people.  To be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going on the actual feast day due to the crazy crowds… but if you want to experience a massive cultural event that happens all over Mexico & see its source, this is the place to be. I posted some logistical instructions here for how to get to the Basilica– scroll down about halfway through that post.
  • More Glamorous December 18th Parade that includes a FAKE SNOWSTORM!  This parade will start at La Morena and go up Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas. I believe it will cut right and end at street 20 de Noviembre in the Zocalo, but the map is a little unclear… (see below)  But to reiterate: they are going to have machines launching fake snow into the air to fall on parade watchers. Love that.
  • Nativity Scenes Galore! Apparently Reforma will have 3 nativity scenes instead of the usual huts selling random gifts/food, but there will also be a LIFE SIZE nativity scene in the Estadio Azteca parking lot. It just makes sense, people!
  • More Stuff for Kids! The Zocalo will also be packed with various other activities/games/inflatable bounce houses/etc. to entertain your kiddos, so bring them on down.
  • Another Crazy-Big Rosca de Reyes!  While I am unclear if this is a world-record-breaking contender, there will nonetheless be another massive rosca de reyes (the king’s cake traditionally eaten on King’s Day) created on January 6th. Keep this in mind if you haven’t eaten enough during December.

Logistics

Here’s a blurry map to give you a feel for the parade routes:

Parade maps courtesy Milenio online: http://www.milenio.com/cdb/doc/impreso/9068350

More info:

If you read Spanish (and/or can send website through a translator), monitor these two newspaper pages online that are tracking updates on holiday events in Mexico City: El Universal and Milenio.  Also Ciudadanosenred.com.mx may have additional details– thanks to them for their helpful article summarizing these events!

Finally, you can check out the current progress of the Mexico City ice rink & general Zocalo preparations in the video below, courtesy of El Universal:

Have a great holiday season & take advantage of all that Mexico City has to offer during this festive time!!
**Updated 11/30 to reflect the dramatic free concert news of everyone’s favorite pop star. 😉
Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

A taste of Yelapa…

Apologies for the delinquency in beach photo uploads!! We have a couple friends visiting this week, so we have been busy with a flurry of taco-eating, pyramid-visiting, tequila-drinking, lucha-watching, bullfight-attending, etc. For an added bonus, one of the visitors (college friend James) is taller than us, which has provided an exciting chance for me to not be the *most* stared at person on the streets of Mexico City.

I don’t want to keep all my cold-climate friends in suspense though, so here are a couple snippets to tide y’all over…

A view from our balcony window...

A view from our balcony window...

Me savoring a Christmas cerveza; I only drink beers whose labels match my outfits

Me savoring a Christmas cerveza; I only drink beers whose labels match my outfits

And a view from the other side of the bay; our place was the yellow house tucked amongst the trees towards the left

And a view from the other side of the bay; our place was the yellow house tucked amongst the trees towards the left

 More details to follow shortly!! In the interim, a Happy New Year to all!!

¡Feliz Navidad!

Well kids, we decided to forego the trip home to the Midwest this Christmas. This is now seeming quite fortuitous, given the crazy snowstorms that have been popping up all over the States this week & last. Nebraska is apparently scheduled to get heavy snow for the next 3 days, which you can view live here!

Instead, we are making 2009 our first (and probably only) BEACH CHRISTMAS!!! We will be wheels up at 4:45 this afternoon from the Mexico City airport, off to Puerto Vallarta. Since we arrive too late to jump on the water taxi, we will wait until tomorrow morning to make the 45-min boat trip to Yelapa! This sleepy beach village just got electricity in 2001, but nonetheless has claims to fame of past visits by Bob Dylan, Liz Taylor, and the like.

We made our plans a bit last-minute, and after sussing out that there were roughly 5 places with available lodging in either Sayulita or Yelapa, randomly selected Casa Bahia Bonita in Yelapa. So we’ll find out what it’s like mañana!!

Not sure what the internet situation is in Yelapa, but if we can access the innerwebs, we’ll be sure to post some jealousy-inducing pictures for y’all who are getting blanketed by freezing rain & several inches of snow! Have a very Merry Christmas wherever you are this week!! We will be missing all our friends and family (but trying vigorously to drown out the sorrow while sitting on the sand with micheladas). Expect a Yelapa report shortly. 😉

Much love & happy holidays, Julie & John

Christmas Fun with Orphans

Everyone wanted to be the conductor and ring the bell

Everyone wanted to be the conductor and ring the bell

A quick guest-post by John.  If you follow Julie’s blog, you no doubt saw me featured as Uncle Sam for the Embassy’s election night party.  A total sucker, I was quickly convinced to dress up as Santa for the Ambassador’s annual orphan Christmas party.  About 150 kids from a number of orphanages attended, and it was really touching to play a small part in helping give them a fun afternoon.  

Race to the death

Race to the death

Everyone was remarkably well-behaved, except for about a dozen boys who Mark and I raced over the big slide…they damn near pulled my pants off trying to beat me!  I heard something rip, but fortunately didn’t discover any serious wardrobe malfunction. 

Just do that 15 more times!

Just do that 15 more times!

 Mark was a hit; the little girl at left was afraid of climbing up the slide, but he got the rowdy boys out of the way, put her on his shoulders, and carried her to the top so she could slide down – once one trip was completed he found himself busy for the next twenty minutes!  After lunch there were four different piñatas (so more kids could get a crack); one of the highlights was the candy-gathering tactics. 

Post-piñata mayhem!

Post-piñata mayhem!

Once the piñata burst, there was a HUGE dogpile; most kids opted for the “leap and sweep” method of diving into the pile, pulling candy under their body with a swoop of outstretched arms, and balling up like an armadillo until rescued by an adult with a bag in which to store your stash!

Santa delivers the goods under the watchful gaze of his elf, the Ambassador, and a nun

Santa delivers the goods under the watchful gaze of his elf, the Ambassador, and a nun

Next, each child got an age and gender-appropriate gift with their name on it.  They were called out by orphanage and each got to visit Santa in his sleigh (complete with six wicker reindeer, who got plowed over by an over-excited little boy).  All told, a great afternoon!
Waiting for your name to be called is tough!

Waiting for your name to be called is tough!

 

I got big hugs from most of the little ones; some even gave me a piece of candy or other small gift

I got big hugs from most of the little ones; some even gave me a piece of candy or other small gift

The Embassy crew and Ambassador post-party

The Embassy crew and Ambassador post-party

Back to Nebraska for Christmas!!

This past Saturday, John & I were alternatingly excited to return to the States to visit our family, and depressed to be leaving 72F weather for impending snow & windchills of -30F below zero. After another magical sub-30 minute trip to the airport at 7:30AM, we confirmed that American Airlines is the least organized airline at the Mexico City airport. On every Mexican airline flight I’ve taken, checking-in has taken roughly 10 minutes thanks to ~10 staffed windows. American had 3 people checking in the entire coach class of flights to Dallas, Miami and Chicago, so we stood in line for 60 minutes but still had time to spare. Note to self– fly Mexican airlines in/out of D.F., because they are more efficient and you get free food (actual food, not just pretzels) & booze on board.

As soon as we got to the U.S., John housed two glasses of tap-water-with-lemon just because he could.

As soon as we got to the U.S., John housed two glasses of tap-water-with-lemon just because he could.

Flying via Dallas (a wise choice, since every other hub in the US was slammed by snow/ice storms), we had a couple hours to kill during our layover. We seized the opportunity to re-acquaint ourselves with American-style dining, namely absolutely mammoth portions of food, but best of all, drinkable tap water!! And lemons!! 

Recounting this exciting fact to my mom later, she queried whether I had seen the recent filthy-lemons exposes. I confirmed yes, but I was fairly certain that no piddly lemon bacteria could rival that which my stomach was attempting to acquire in Mexico City.

Anyway, we actually made it into Omaha ON TIME!! (unlike my brother, stranded until 1.5 days later), and had a lovely dinner at my fav restaurant the Upstream Brewery with some friends & family before hitting the cooold cold roads with the aforementioned -30F windchill. Our first few days here in scenic Grand Island have not disappointed.

Is this business actually successful??

Is this business actually successful??

The illustrious Conestoga Mall has added a few gems to its collection of bustling stores, including some sort of John Deere souvenir store that was a prime spot for photos. The old movie theatre has been taken over by Glowgolf (what in the hell??), a hot new activity that my mom informs me is “very popular with the kids these days”.

Yes!! Farm Toys!!! Thank you!!!!

Yes!! Farm Toys!!! Thank you!!!!

 

Ahh, if only I had enough space in my luggage to bring this backhoe back to Mexico...

Ahh, if only I had enough space in my luggage to bring this backhoe back to Mexico...

 Luckily, our standby from junior high “drop us off at the mall on Saturday afternoon and we will spend 4 hours walking by 50 stores & hoping to see somebody cool” days is still kicking: The Incredible Bulk, a wittily named candy store.  There has been a lot of turnover at the Conestoga Mall, but apparently the demand for products to help you get fatter rarely dies down.

John applied for a job as Incredible Bulk security guard.

John applied for a job as Incredible Bulk security guard.

And finally, the mall also now has a trendy pet products store, so trendy that my mom was able to purchase a sweater for our dog Dave, the Jack Russell Terrier. Dave is getting a bit old & seems to get chilled easily, so she felt a sweater might be just the thing, and clearly what is better than a dog sweater? A MEXICAN FLAG dog sweater!!!

¡Viva México!, Dave seems to be saying

¡Viva México!, Dave seems to be saying

The only other highlight was my strange compulsion to visit one of the Mexican grocery stores in town last night, I guess to see if there would be any wacky ingredients that we now know how to use that we could surprise my parents with. And, I guess, the latent hope that here perhaps John & I speaking Spanish would be novel & perhaps we could impress someone (unlike in D.F., where we just look like morons). Unfortunately, our attempts to bond with the La Mexicana store employee didn’t go very smoothly, as she didn’t seem particularly comfortable with John’s repeated attempts to ask how long she’d been living in Grand Island.  Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

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