Research has indicated that Fray Pedro de Gante introduced the Mexicans to Christmas, in 1538. As a Spanish missionary, he was able to witness the Colonial settlers enter into the celebrations for Christmas, accompanied by much gaiety and joy. However, it was not until the 17th century that the native poinsettias accepted Christmas as an event to celebrate.
Readings from the bible were part of the celebrations, with flowers and feathers being used as decorations as the Mexican people recognized Navidad – The Nativity.
Mexican Christmas traditions revolve around the legend of a young boy named Pablo, who was unable to buy a gift for Jesus, so instead he offered weeds that he had picked on his journey to the alter. Before reaching his destination, the weeds had turned in to bright red poinsettias which he was proudly able to offer as a gift. This prompted the tradition of offering flowers to the Lord.
December 16th sees the beginning of the fiesta, las posadas, a series of processions lasting nine nights, re-enacting the journey of Mary and Joseph, from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
This took into account their quest for shelter, before the birth of their baby. The procession splits into two groups, one being innkeepers and the other pilgrims. The pilgrims go from inn-to-inn requesting shelter until the manger is found. Every home and public place has a manger scene set up in it, called nacimiento. The pilgrims say a prayer over the manger, and then the festivities start. After the final fiesta is over, everyone attends midnight mass. Bells, firecrackers and whistles finally announce the arrival of Christmas Day and the festivities continue until January 6th which is Three Kings Day.
Dramas called pastorela, are a further indication of Mexican Christmas Traditions. Performed in the countryside, these are Mexican versions of European medieval miracle plays portraying the activities of shepherds and pastors.
The Christmas celebration is further enhanced by parades, bullfights, rodeos and Pinata breaking ceremonies, highlighting the pageantry of these celebrations. This displays more of the Mexican Christmas Traditions that have been celebrated for many years, and will continue to do so.