“What is Christmas like in Mexico?” I was recently asked by a friend who had just moved here from the United States.
“Christmas?” I replied. “If you want to observe Navidad in Mexico, don’t come around on Christmas Day. All you’re likely to see is somebody mopping the floor or washing dishes from the night before.”
The night before, however, is another story. It’s La Noche Buena, and that’s where the action is! Everyone heads for their parents’/grandparents’ home at about 9 p.m. for a colossal family gathering from far and near, often including relatives now living “al otro lado” in the United States.
Yes, that night I suppose 90 percent of all homes in Mexico are empty from 10 p.m. on and you’d think all the burglars in the country would simply love Christmas Eve. But no, even most burglars are obliged to be present at Noche Buena festivities.
You could be in the throes of la muerte or coughing and sneezing with the worst gripa on earth, but you’d better show up on Christmas Eve to share your cold with all your relatives. In fact, I recall the year that the H1N1 virus had laid low nearly every soul in Guadalajara … and then Christmas approached
Calling off Navidad was, of course, unthinkable and there was much talk of wearing face masks for the celebration and bowing or waving instead of hugging, but on the night of the 24th, the masks were found uncomfortable and quickly discarded. How could anyone wave at their abuelita instead of hugging her?