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Christmas Eve in Mexico — It’s All About the Baby Jesus

Hand painted clay creche with Joseph, Mary, Jesus & Star of Bethlehem, Mexican folk art. Photo by BF Newhall

I bought this hand-painted clay folk art creche depicting Joseph, Mary and Jesus a few days before Christmas in San Miguel. Photo by BF Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

If you wanted a Santa-Clausy Christmas this year, complete with tinsel, elves, Frosty the Snowman, and abundant gift-buying opportunities, Santa Claus, Indiana, might have been your destination of choice.

But if it was the Baby Jesus you were looking for, Mexico’s old colonial town of San Miguel de Allende was the place to be.

tower and steeple of parroquia of san miguel de allende, mexico, with view of city in foreground. Photo by BF Newhall

Bell tower and steeple of the Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel in old town San Miguel. Photo by BF Newhall

Each year, in the days and weeks before Christmas, creches appear all over San Miguel. You see the Star of Bethlehem, the angels, Joseph and the Virgin Mary. You see posadas — with parades of children following the Holy Family from house to house in search of a place to spend the night.

But it’s not until  Christmas Eve that the Christ Child actually makes an appearance. And when he does, you can’t miss him. He’s  in the streets, in the churches, and in the Jardin at the center of town.

posada procession christmas eve 2013 san miguel de allende. photo by bf newhall

I made a shaky but musical video of this posada procession. Photo by BF Newhall

Two baby Jesus dolls in a manger on a neighborhood street in San Miguel de Allende. Photo by BF Newhall

Baby Jesus dolls are brought out into the street on beds of candy for neighborhood celebrations on Christmas Eve. At midnight, each Christ Child will find its place in a creche in a family home. Photo by BF Newhall

The Christ Child has arrived in the creche in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and so have the live animals -- and the people. Photo by BF Newhall

It’s Christmas and the Christ Child has arrived in the creche in the Jardin at the center of San Miguel — and so have the live animals and the flocks of people. Photo by BF Newhall

Local folks pour out of their homes bearing their beautiful Christ Child dolls to be blessed at the local church and prayed over in makeshift creches set up by neighbors on the city’s centuries-old cobblestone streets. Check out my murky but touching video of neighbors singing a lullaby to the Baby Jesus.

Kiss a neighbor’s Baby Jesus doll and you are invited to take a sweet from the Christ Child’s bed of candy.

And then at midnight on Christmas Eve all over town, the beautiful, life-sized Jesus dolls are placed in creches in churches, parks and homes.

The Christ Child has arrived at last.

But Christmas isn’t over on Christmas in Mexico. On January 6, Epiphany, the Wise Men will arrive — and so will gifts for the children.

 

Can Christmas be Christmas without the kids? Read about it at “We’re Having a Merry Christmas Without the Kids This Year.” More travel stories at “Austin: A City That Wears Its Soul on Its Sleeve”  and “A Dune on Lake Michigan.”

A Baby Jesus figure for sale at Christmastime at the Tuesday Market, Tianguis Municipal, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Photo by BF Newhall

A twenty-first-century Baby Jesus: For sale — along with a figure of San Miguel, center, and a figure of Jesus on the cross, lower right — on Christmas Eve at the Tuesday Tianguis Market in San Miguel. Photo by BF Newhall

A ceiling fresco in the Sanctuary at Atotonilco, Mexico, depicts the Virgin and Child. Photo by BF Newhall

An eigthteenth-century Baby Jesus: A ceiling mural in the Sanctuary at Atotonilco, not far from San Miguel, depicts the Virgin and Child. Photo by BF Newhall

An man wearing a Santa Claus hat in a doorway in San Miguel de Allende just before Christmas. Photo by BF Newhall

Full disclosure: I did spot one Santa wannabe in San Miguel. Photo by BF Newhall

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Comments

  1. i am doing a report on nochebuena in mexico
    can you help me?

    • Everything I know about Noche Buena I put into these posts. The one thing I’d like to emphasize is the wonderful community feeling tothe celebration — people coming out onto the streets to sing and pray with neighbors, sharing candy, inviting people in to see the nativity scenes with the beautiful, life-sized baby Jesus dolls. Also, the parades through the streets. It’s so different from the shopping experience that Christmas has become in the US.

  2. Jeanie MacGillis says:

    I love this piece. Were you there this year at Christmas? How safe is San Miguel? I understand they have Spanish language schools there. My sister, Linda, wants to know if it would be safe to go there to study.

    • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

      San Miguel is very safe. We were wandering all over the streets night and day. It’s got an old fashioned town center with narrow streets and cobblestones. The people are wonderful. I even saw taxi drivers pausing to let other taxi drivers go ahead of them. Also, lots of artists and retired folks from USA and elsewhere live there. And I’m sure you can find Spanish language schools. There’s at least one writing conference there too. Lots of great shops and restaurants. The day trip to Atotonilco I describe in another post is just one of the things to do.

Trackbacks

  1. […] 6. “Christmas Eve in Mexico — It’s All About the Baby Jesus”  […]

  2. […] to the world: A life-sized baby Jesus doll on sale at the Mercado in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Photo by Barbara […]

  3. […] Kitsch — and Cookies “  “The Funky Charms of East Austin, Texas”  and “Christmas Eve in Mexico — It’s All About the Baby Jesus.” A mosaiced car parked on Ford Street — by “Sarah.” Photo by BF Newhall […]

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