The most awaited and sometimes mind-blowing time of the year in Mexico has arrived… Christmas, and with this, Mexicans demonstrate one of our greatest talents: our endurance for the party. Any foreigner who has gone to a Mexican party knows that we can drink for two and eat for four, or the other way around.
It all starts when dad suggests buying this year’s Christmas food to avoid the hustle and bustle for mom and granny -abuelita for future reference- The answer is a thick, icy silence and a murderous look from both.
Mom and abuelita start cooking the meal. Mexicans, holidays and food have a complicated relationship, there is no logic because it implies restraint and we are hyperbolic, exaggerated to say the least… So, mom and abuelita start cooking for an army. They make tamales, Christmas salad, two turkeys, mole, white rice, pozole, a roasted pig and for dessert a thousand “buñuelitos” but remember, we are just a few people.
The guests start arriving, mom and abuelita go crazy and get really stressed because they haven’t finished their makeup or gotten dressed, because they have spent the whole day cooking. Dad welcomes his brothers and brothers-in-law and they have some “Tequilitas” and snacks, known as “botanas”. This is a sort of a pre-meal, and are to wet everyone´s appetite, there are chicharrones, all kinds of cheeses -including the one that smells like dirty feet- refried frijol, totopos with salsa, elotitos, guacamole and all kinds of hot sauces to accompany the botanas.
While this is happening inside the house, we decide to go out with the cousins to set off firecrackers… due to the noise, the cat runs, the dog chases it and it climbs up the Christmas tree… goodbye to half of the decorations on the tree. Abuelita gives us the “death stare” while her “chancla” flies towards me with the precision of robotic surgery. It hits me right on the head and leaves me cross-eyed, that means “No more fun with firecrackers”. As we go back to the party, the doorbell rings. Dad opens the door and seems very happy. Our uncles and cousins from out of town have arrived. I have never, ever seen them before, but here they are, dad is happy to have them here, so… he drinks a round of tequilitas along with the arriving uncles.
The time to sing the “Posada” song has come. My aunt Chata starts the song. In her youth she was part of the choir from church, a pretty good singer, so, during the song she slaps me and my cousins on the head every time we miss the cue. Right after finishing the Posada song, dad and the uncles have another tequilita while everybody approaches the piñata to break it. We all sing along “Dale dale dale, no pierdas el tino”. Accidentally the uncle who came to visit hits my little brother in the head, with the stick… After making sure that everything is fine, he and dad, drink another tequilita for “el susto” while the children take turns breaking the piñata.
One of the uncles —who is already drunk— throws a firecracker. Once again, the cat goes up to the Christmas tree and the dog chases it… they knock it over… again… so abuelita yells and scolds everyone because the other half of the tree ornaments are now broken as well. This time however, the tree fell on top of the Nativity Scene and some of the pieces go flying.
The tequilitas have done their magic, and you can see how the aunts at this point can basically dance everything. Salsa, cumbia, banda, disco, rock, Charleston or whatever rhythm is played.
Gift time comes… we are so excited! All the kids receive their present… crap, socks for all the kids! Seems like granny and the family made a huge creative effort in the gifts… AGAIN. The previous year we all got handkerchiefs and ugly sweaters. Gift time is over so, dad and the uncles have another tequilita.
All the family is together and dinner is about to be served. We all hold hands to say grace, all of the sudden we are interrupted. The neighbor threw another firecracker, the cat climbed onto the dining table while the dog chased it… AGAIN. Plates, glasses and silverware fly all over the place. The Christmas tree is torn to pieces in the corner of the living room, the Nativity set is broken and one of the Three Wise Men has been beheaded… Abuelita is totally upset, she thinks we are all going to hell, my dad smiles and my Mom gives him the death stare… abuelita drinks a couple of tequilitas.
Once again, we take each other’s hands in prayer while abuelita gives grace. All of the sudden I see my drunk uncle Jesus looking at me, making his famous “fart face” and it makes me laugh so hard that abuelita, slaps me in the back of the head, fixing the previous crossed-eyed situation from her flying chancla.
We are alot of people, so maybe the pounds of Christmas salad, the thousands of tamales, the giant turkeys and the other food that comes out of the kitchen wasn´t such a bad idea… as usual, there is no place at the table, so the children are sent to eat in the living room, between the destroyed Christmas Tree and shattered pieces of the Nativity Scene.
Once dinner is finished dad and the uncles take another tequila and start talking. First about funny youth anecdotes and how each of the uncles got their nicknames. The funniest thing I have ever heard in my life. Yes, everything is fun and cordial, with love and respect… until they begin to banter over soccer, politics and religion. This almost becomes a fight, the aunts and abuelita jump in, giving them all, the same murderous look that was given to dad when he suggested buying food and a swat in the back of their heads -Like the one I got in multiple ocasions-. In no time, the situation is under control. EVERYONE drinks another tequilita.
It is almost sunrise, time to say goodbye… but only for a few hours. At noon the family will be reunited for round two… eating the Christmas dinner leftovers -El recalentado- and another gift exchange. Dad already has the beers in ice and more bottles of tequila ready. As he drinks one last tequilita… He wonders if next year it wouldn´t be a good idea to go on a vacation. It´s Christmas so I guess everyone can dream and hope.
By José Urioste for SMT.