Almost everyone I know is passionate about which of the perennial Christmas stories is the “best.” Some vote for the old time favorites: Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” or the enchanting poem,” The Night Before Christmas.” Others are fiercely loyal to the holiday movie stories: “White Christmas,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Christmas Story” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”
Until recently, if polled, I would have smiled dreamily and peered in memory through a frosted bay window to watch Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed decorate the tree in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
That was until a couple of years ago when I heard a Christmas story from Ajijic. As I bought tape, gift bags, tissue paper and ribbons, the clerk in a local papeleria shared her childhood holiday memories.
“We couldn’t wait for Christmas, but it was different than in the early 1970s. No one put lights on their houses or used arbolitos de navidad (Christmas trees). Some houses had very large nacimientos (nativity scenes). At my grandmother’s house, they took all of the furniture from one room so they could make the whole scene with a village and the shepherds in their fields. Every day my abuelita moved the angel, Joseph and Mary on the donkey closer and closer to the stable.
“My mother let us attend all nine of the posadas in Ajijic. We just couldn’t wait to go to the processions every afternoon. We felt like we were helping Joseph find the stable so the baby could be born. When we received our bolos (bags of candy and peanuts in the shell) we knew we had to save them to take home, so we were happy when there were mandarinas (tangerines) in the piñatas, because we could eat them right there, and they were such a treat.
“At home, we all watched as mother separated all of the candy and peanuts into two bowls. We would have liked to have eaten even one piece of candy, but she always saved it all.