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.
One minute a bunch of San Miguel youngsters are rounding the bases and heading for home in a lively baseball game against their parents. Moments later, they are rounding the same bases in single file, carrying a creche on a platform and singing the traditional songs of the Posada.
And shortly after that, the kids were back swinging a bat — only this time at a candy-filled pinata.
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.