For those from the north, lakeside’s lack of snow and cold may not, at first glance look much like Christmas. True, there’s not a single decoration display with 300,000 lights, but a quick glance at the towering poinsettias lining area streets is enough to pump up a good deal of holiday spirit.
Those of us who remember scurrying from warm store to pre-warmed car with a tissue paper shrouded poinsettia are still more than a little in awe when we gaze at the star-shaped brightly colored bracts on towering seven- to ten-foot plants thriving in area gardens. Of course the traditional holiday season plants grow like weeds here; the poinsettia, or as it is called in Spanish el Nochebuena (the good night – Christmas Eve) is native to Mexico.
For those of us who write about Mexico’s holiday customs, the true heralds of the season are the emails we receive from kids assigned to write reports about Christmas traditions. Evidently our stories hosted on the Reporter web site drop like sugared plums at the thought of a Google search. Dale Palfrey and I somehow have become the preferred references for school reports, interviews, projects and panel discussions about how Christmas is different in Mexico.
Over the years I’ve explained all of the various traditions to the kids and answered questions such as, “What day is Christmas on in Mexico?” before I finally understood the real difference. Just look around – it’s less than two weeks to Christmas and our Mexican neighbors are going about their normal routines, and living in the moment. Most expats struggle to learn that tool, some end up in 12-step programs before they understand it.
And that’s the difference in the celebration of Christmas. Our Mexican friends are enjoying the process of the holidays, while our former neighbors in the north are urgently struggling to make the holiday into a perfect event. It reminds me a lot of the Whos down in Whoville who joined hands around the Christmas tree and sang after the Grinch stole their “Christmas.” It seems my wise Mexican neighbors shared a great truth with Dr. Seuss.