Nochebuena

Also known as Hispanic Christmas, but what does it really mean?

Nochebuena is arguably the most important feast of the year in Mexico. It takes place annually on Christmas Eve, December 24th. It’s when your grandma and your aunts go off in the kitchen like their lives depend on whether the tamales and frijoles puercos are tasty or not.

Christmas time in Mexico (The Mexican Posada) lasts pretty much the entire month of December but on Nochebuena, the posadas culminate in a feast meant for families to come together and enjoy the gifts baby Jesus bestowed upon the world. Usually, this feast is a late dinner but still before midnight because most Mexicans attend the midnight mass called Misa Del Gallo to commemorate the one time a rooster crowed at midnight to announce the birth of our savior.

After mass, the celebration continues with the opening of gifts and exchanges of red poinsettias from one family to another. You’ll see fireworks and even shots fired (in the rural parts of Mexico) in the sky to celebrate the coming of baby Jesus. Families will proudly show off their nativity displays the way an American family prides itself on their Christmas tree.

Nochebuena means “good night” or “holy night” and usually, this is in fact the best night of the year. Throughout the night, merry jingles dedicated to the journey of Mary and Joseph blast from every household. Consider these a Mexican version of Christmas Carols…but better. El Burrito De Belen is perfectly danceable and you know Mexicans, we love to dance. Most carols are meant to be sung in praise to Jesus and of course, to praise him through dance as well. This tradition is a result of the mestizaje between Catholicism and the Aztec indigenous celebrations honoring the God of Sun and War, Huitzilopochtli which often included a feast and dance in his honor.

The party usually continues until the wee hours of actual Christmas Day. At the end of the night, our carols usually turn into cumbias and Rancheras. Aunts turn into Jenni Riveras and uncles swear they’re Chalino Sanchez. But we wouldn’t trade them for the world! Nochebuena is only buena when spent with those you love most, expressing gratitude for all the blessings of the year.

Feliz Nochebuena y Feliz Navidad!
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