Stretching back thousands of years, there is an innate need to warm our houses and lift our spirits when winter has truly arrived and days are shortest. Pagans used branches of evergreens to decorate their homes during the winter solstice to remind them of spring. Many cultures and religions include a winter celebration of light.
However jaded by the Christmas rush I feel, there is something truly magical about coming in from the cold to a house full of warm Christmas lights. Or catching a glimpse through a window of another family’s Christmas tree and imagining the festivities inside.
In our British-Mexican household, probably like most families, we have established our own Christmas traditions based on a mixture of our individual upbringings. Our Christmas tree is a happy jumble of gold baubles and Mexican decorations of techni-coloured pom-poms and tin figures. Hand-cut paper bunting (brilliant as it can be brought out again for all celebrations throughout the year) sits happily alongside the tinsel and fairy lights.
The Christmas Table
One of the traditions we have readily adopted from the Christmases we have spent with family in Mexico is the Christmas Eve punch. A gorgeous (but fairly lethal!) combination of tequila, spices and fresh fruit. Mangos, limes and guavas; the smell of fruit and cinnamon filling the house is just amazing.
Christmas day itself is less of a focus for the celebrations in Mexico but for me, Christmas dinner is still the heart of Christmas. I therefore take extra care over the Christmas table settings. Welcoming our extended family with table decorations of colourful woven placemats intermingled with ivy and candles. It sets the perfect tone for our multicultural festivities.
While in the UK we are getting ready to take the decorations down, the most celebrated day of the season in Mexico, Dia de Reye (Three Kings Day), falls on 6th January. This is when the Christmas presents are typically given and the family feast together. Even when we are at home in London, we save a few presents for this day and enjoy delicious corn tamales and bitter hot chocolate; so thick it is almost like soup.
In Mexico, there is always a special ring-shaped cake. A bit like our tradition of placing a silver coin in the Christmas pudding, one person will get the slice of cake containing a tiny figure of a baby. This means they then have to host a party on Candlemas Day at the start of February. I’m not sure what we will do to get our huge extended Mexican family to the UK if it is ever our turn!
Share your traditions with us, or have a browse for inspiration if you are hosting. Enjoy the preparations; they are almost my favourite part.