Knife in hand, my face does not hide my trepidation. I eye my target strategically, purposefully.
“Careful! You’re going to cut through its neck!” Margarita says to me. As if on cue, my knife saws into something hard. Somehow I managed to find the tiny neck of the muñecita that was hidden in the cake! What are the chances?
While retracting my piece of cake from the serving plate, I join in with everyone while they laugh hardily. The baby’s head peeks at me out of the side of my piece of cake. Sorry, but that is just a little creepy to me. I can see every detail of its tiny plastic face despite the candlelight.
“I am sorry for any trauma I may have caused, muñecita,” I manage to giggle at the toy. A few minutes later, between bites of cake and sips of arroz con leche, I pose it an important question: “You will teach me how to make tamales before February, right?”
The day was January 6th; the day of the Three Kings. Yet another Mexican holiday related to Christmas. The last one. I am happy because the holidays are making me tired! On this day, tradition dictates that the person who finds a plastic baby in their cake is then tasked at bringing sufficient tamales to the next party on February 2nd. This year it seems, that person will be me.
Oh, the holidays in Mexico! Traditionally, the parties start on December 12 and continue until January 6. If you want, you can take the “Marathon of Guadalupe Reyes” challenge. Participants attend a party, parade, or posada each and every one of those 26 nights, and it does not count if the party lasts well into the next morning, like so many of them do.
How will I convey my experience of spending the holidays in Mexico to you, my blog readers? Honestly, there are too many stories to share. Instead, I present to you: My Mexican Holidays, By Numbers. Enjoy!
26 days: Duration of “the holidays”
5: Distinct holidays between December 12 and February 2
Maybe 1 or 2, not many: Nights without fireworks
More than 10: Piñatas broken in my presence
8: Posadas attempted to attend
0.5: Posadas attended. They might be the only thing that starts on time here!
30+: Creepy looking baby Jesus seen in manger scenes, carried down streets, or brought to church
2: Christmas songs in Spanish that still somehow got stuck in my head regularly
More than 20: Glasses of ponche drank
4: Carne asada roasts attended
More than 30: Pieces of electric-colored, gooey candy I have been gifted, wondered what they were, then re-gifted
8 or 9: Hours that I have danced to Huapango, Banda, or other traditional music at community dances
65: % of that time that I was really awkward about it; ie. stepping on feet or being defensive with people wanting to dance closer
3: Catholic masses attended on accident
4: Bonfires attended quite purposefully
Average 6 per party: Times I was commanded in the imperative verb tense to eat or drink more
7: Times I was asked to recount the meal components of a particular holiday
Christmas Eve & Christmas
60: % cover of street and sidewalks with additional vendors on Christmas Eve
10 minutes: Time needed to walk less than 100 yards on sidewalk during Christmas Eve due to crowds
More than 100: Amount of tamales made for Christmas Eve dinner
“10 pm,” but really 11:45 pm: Hour that dinner started on Christmas Eve
10 – 15: Hugs given at the stroke of midnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas
2: Tamales eaten for Christmas breakfast
4: Tamales eaten for Christmas lunch
Between 4 and 6: Tacos eaten for Christmas dinner
95: % increase of red or yellow underwear sales in Mexico, estimated
6.5: Hours spent on a bus to go 200 miles
12: Hours spent traveling that same 200 miles, with waiting time included
22: Hours the bus was delayed on the return trip
11: Hours of consecutive music played at a New Year’s Eve music festival, by same 2 bands
500+ at a given time: Cowboy hats worn on the dance floor
3 inches, average: Length of toe-point on boots that extends beyond the toe, worn at the festival
100+: % increase in town’s population during the festival
6 am: Hour that I finally fell asleep
Making me smile
- Getting the local hook-up for fresh eggs and milk in my community
- Successfully finding things for my house, little by little, without Craigslist or any prior knowledge of where to find anything, using only Spanish, gesturing, and interpretive dance
- For Christmas dinner, the carefully prepared American-style roasted turkey was quickly picked apart and turned into tacos, with all dinner companions looking curiously but forgoing the homemade gravy in lieu of spicy salsa
- During a posada, no one knew the words to the song. We found the lyrics on a Peace Corps handout, so everyone passed them back and forth, laughing the whole time by candlelight
- According to my host family, by birthday is now on the 31st of February. All because I am less than fluent at Spanish…one word misunderstood really changes the meaning of a sentence!
- Watching the moon rise over the mountains at my house
- My fireplace