To understand the significance of Perry Como passing through our town on Christmas Eve in 1967 – no, not just passing but actually stopping – you have to understand the insignificance of Brookville, Pennsylvania.
The town that I fondly, though inaccurately, call my hometown, was in the middle of nowhere until the honking huge Interstate-80 was laid north of town and sucked up all traffic and little remaining interest in Brookville. Though you could see and hear thousands of cars and trucks pass by daily, Brookville was deeper into nowhere than ever before.
At this time of year, you can’t pass a window or a storefront without stopping to admire the Nativity scenes. One of the charms (this time of year, at least) of houses that are right up against the sidewalk, is that you are practically walking in your neighbor’s living room. You learn not to casually glance to the right for fear of invading someone’s privacy.
Except for now.
Residents and businesses put their Nativities in the front windows for all to admire, reflect upon, and appreciate the aesthetic spectrum. The Nativity is an expression of art as much as an expression of devotion or mythos appreciation.
Sometime between Thursday night when I left San Miguel de Allende and Saturday night when I returned, the life-size crèche popped up in the Jardin Principal, just across from Parroquia San Miguel Arc Angel.
Just in time, too. The plaza will be the final stop on the nine-night journey of Joseph and Mary in search of a place to rest and give birth to the baby Jesus, Dec. 16-24. Eight other communities in San Miguel have each, in turn, held a Posada which ends with pageantry, music, gifts, food, pinatas, celebration, and veneration.
Monday afternoon, the children are in full-dress on the plaza of Parroquia San Antonio de Padua, in Colonia San Antonio for the traditional Pastorela. They have been rehearsing on the same patio most afternoons. They would sit in a circle and run through their parts with several ladies who show great gentleness, humor, and patience.
The Pastorela pageant recounts the adventures of the shepherds as they head to Bethlehem to worship the newly born baby Jesus on Christmas Day. They face numerous temptations — as you can see, an exuberant band of devils — and in some tellings, it is St. Michael who comes to their rescue. Go, San Miguel!
The Pastorela as a theatrical piece and oral story tradition has been embellished, modernized, changed in tone, and grown as any living, breathing thing — but the essential tale of trials, temptation, salvation, and redemption remains the same.
Another wonderful tradition, Las Posadas, will be celebrated in Mexico on Dec. 16-24 and follows the journey of Jesus and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. On each of the nine nights, the procession heads out to a specific home seeking comfortable lodging for Mary to give birth. Families, children, musicians, singers, and others follow Mary and Joseph each night.
Of course, they are turned away (but rarely without treats and beverages.) When they end up back at the church, the children are given the chance to crack open star-shaped pinatas and scramble for the treats that spill to the ground.
Las Posadas tradition has existed for 440 years in Spain and Mexico.
Tonight was the official tree-lighting ceremony in San Miguel de Allende. As always with any ceremony here, that includes a bodacious fireworks display. The fireworks seemed to go on forever. What a sight!
All the white fairy lights in the park and those covering the seven streets entering into the public square were lit as well. As the Atencion newspaper put it this week: they “seem like a path of stars.”
Rose and I walked into the square (Jardine Principal) just as the countdown began.
What a show!
Scroll through the pictures and be sure to check out the videos at the end. Turn the volume up to 10!
The main square in Centro, Jardin Allende, flows red with poinsettias — while in the trees above, white fairy lights twinkle after the sun sets. San Miguel de Allende awaits Christmas with color, beauty, eagerness, and joy.