This was a VERY FULL weekend - a big shopping trip to La Paz, a posada, pastorelas, and more.
On Friday we went to La Paz, primarily for the Pirate to see the doctor. He thought that he would need to have surgery for a hernia that he has developed but the doctor said NO, so he was one very happy camper coming out of the doctor's office! But since we had to be in the city anyway, we stocked up on a number of goodies and bought ourselves a joint Christmas present - a new combination cd/mp3/record player (our old Bose finally gave up the ghost). And - even dearer to the Pirate's heart - we bought fireworks! Mexicans love to shoot off firecrackers at Christmas (same as the English), so we stopped at a large fireworks stand and loaded up.
Amazingly, it rained while we were in La Paz. The wet season here is generally the summer, when we get hurricanes or the tail ends of them. But there was enough rain that day in La Paz to create large puddles.
At mass that night I was able to get photos of some of the decorations on each side of the altar. On the left is the creche, of course missing the baby Jesus (he'll be there tomorrow night) and on the right are two "Christmas trees". Here in the desert we don't have easy access to evergreens (no Christmas tree farms), so traditionally the folks here have used tree branches or (even more commonly) the flowering stalks of agaves (century plants) as their "Christmas trees".
It's too bad that the lights on the "trees" don't show - the effect is really beautiful.
On Saturday I finished knitting the first of several washcloths I'm making for the guest bathroom.
Then Saturday evening it was back to the main church for mass and a posada to our barrio (neighborhood). When we got to the church it was all decked out, and we discovered that the mass would include a wedding (this happens a lot here - weddings are simply part of the regular mass).
After the mass the folks from our barrio gathered for the peregrinacion and posada. We were led by Padre who walked next to the truck that had a statue of Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem. We walked about a mile - praying and singing Christmas songs - before reaching the first house of the posada, since we had to cross the huerta (the agricultural fields separating the center of town from some of the residential areas).
Posadas are a major part of the Christmas season in Mexico. A posada is a loose re-enactment of the story of Joseph and Mary looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem. There is a traditional song that is sung in parts - one part by the group of people with "Joseph" and "Mary" (often children dressed to play the roles) and one part by the people at various houses where the two are seeking shelter. Several houses turn the couple away until they get to the last house, which welcomes them in and where food and drink and a piñata are part of the festivities awaiting the whole group. Here we are singing at the first house where we were turned away.
There were 40-50 people in the group once we got to the last house (people would join as we passed their houses), with about half of them children. Padre presented us with the new chalices that he had bought for our chapel (each barrio has its own chapel).
Here's Padre with two of the sisters who serve in our parish.
Here's the piñata before…
and after it was broken and the mad scramble to grab candy was on!
Another piñata was put up after this so all the kids had a chance at hitting it (and of course they all got candy).
As we walked home after the fiesta we passed this small casita all aglow with Christmas lights - so pretty!
The "tree" is a a quiote - the flowering stalk of an agave plant.
Onward to the grand weekend finale on Sunday night (actually not the weekend, since it's the FIRST day of the week, not the last). After the evening mass we had an event in the plaza in which each of the main groups of the parish presented a pastorela. These are small playlets telling the story of the birth of Jesus, the meaning of Christmas, or the vanquishing of evil by His coming.
The first pastorela was put on by the catechism teachers and described various symbols associated with Christmas and what they mean. I found out that pinatas represent the seven deadly sins (those are the horns sticking out) which is why we want to beat them until they break. And "Santa Claus" explained that he was really St. Nicolas, a bishop in what is now Turkey, who paid for the dowries of 2 poor girls who otherwise couldn't afford to get married.
Another pastorela told the story of two Roman soldiers converted when they heard about Jesus' birth from the shepherds (I'm not sure why they both had sports bags).
The last pastorela was a story about a family whose younger son was a drug addict, and his conversion when he was arrested and his father came and got him on Christmas eve.
In the middle ages pastorelas were a common means of teaching the stories of the faith, and from the coming of the first missionaries to Mexico they were used for the same purpose here.
The ladies of the parish served champurrado (a sort of hot chocolate with cornmeal) and bunuelos (a traditional Christmas puffed pastry). And to make the event extra special the church had prepared a whole lot of gifts to give away. People were given tickets with numbers on them and throughout the evening there would be drawings of the numbers. I think that there were something like a hundred gifts that were given away.
As you can imagine, a great time was had by all!