It has been three months since I arrived at Holy Wisdom Monastery. I am becoming an expert window cleaner. And I am enjoying singing, some days I surprise myself humming a hymn.
I am thinking about my Christmas preparation time back in Mexico, and I remember that I used to have a communal preparation. We, the whole neighborhood, start the Our Lady of Guadalupe Novena on December fourth. The neighbors take turns hosting evening communal rosary at their houses. After that everybody enjoys drinking coffee, tea or atole (a sweet, hot drink) with cookies or sweet bread. During these nine days each street hosts a street Mass. The people decorate their front doors to indicate that they want the priest to stop and bless their home and family after Mass. Each family stands together in the front door waiting for the priest and the procession of people that attend Mass. That day we have something more than just coffee and cookies, we have something like tamales and atole! Between these days we also celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary, on December 8. We can hear the churches bells and the fireworks very early in the morning. We all are involved in a huge preparation. Then we have three days of rest until December 16 when the first posada starts.
Las posadas is a nine day celebration. We commemorate the nine months Mary carried baby Jesus in her belly. There are nine neighbors on the street that volunteer their houses to celebrate the posada. The hostess offers fresh seasonal fruit punch, and some food for adults, kids usually are happy just with their special Christmas treats-a small bag full of Christmas candies, special candies we can have just in this time, like colaciones and alfajores. And everybody is waiting for Mary and Joseph in the procession. We carry a small colorful candle and go praying and singing from one house to another, until we arrive at the chosen house. There, the host receives us singing “enter holy pilgrims.” Then the kids collect their special Christmas treats and adults eat and dance, and finally the piñatas. Here everybody, kids and adults, enjoy singing and catching fruit and candies once the piñata is broken. There is always extra fruit and candies for kids that are not that lucky catching fruit.
It is the same for eight nights, but on Christmas Eve everything is more festive, your extended family is visiting and also your neighbor’s extended family that you also know and are your friends, since you play with them each vacation time. This evening we have piñatas almost in every single house. Kids can stay outside very late. Next morning, Christmas morning, everything is quiet, but at noon the relatives that for some reason could not make it the day before that show up for the reheated leftovers. And again the party starts.
Here at the monastery, the Advent preparations are a lot more solemn. It is also a communal preparation but the songs are not so festive and popular, compared with las posadas celebrations. Here the preparation is more spiritual, with more depth. I think also less passing or transient. I hope I can transmit some of this depth spirituality to my family. I am thinking about my vacation time in Los Angeles-there I will celebrate Christmas Eve with my family, there everything resembles Mexico a little more. I hope to spend a nice warm Christmas without real snow, just some fake snow in the windows. After that I will charge my batteries to return to the Madison tundra again.
Read this post in Spanish. Para seguir a paz en español: Preparaciones para la Navidad
Read more from Paz in her blog series, Little notes from a prairie journey.