Feliz Año Nuevo / Happy New Year

New Year’s Eve is celebrated throughout the Americas, with parties, fireworks, traditional food and family dinners.  In Spain, Spaniards gather in the central plaza at Puerta del Sol, and eat one grape for each chime of the clock at midnight (this is actually a little more difficult than it sounds, particularly if your grapes are big).  This tradition was carried to the New World, and party goers in countries such as Mexico make a wish with each grape.  In Panama, the town of Las Tablas has an early version of February carnival, with an extravagant competition for Carnival Queen.  The citizens of Puerto Rico spend the day housecleaning, and the evening toasting with friends and family over a dinner of bacalao (cod).  Whichever country you choose to spend New Year, you’ll find a warm Latino welcome in the Americas.   We sincerely hope that you have enjoyed your discovery of the Americas this year, and that our Almanac has given you opportunities to think of and perhaps even to love the peoples of the Americas.  Please join us next year for more digital adventures. (Image of fireworks on the skyline of la ciudade de Panama, Panama.)

Feast of the Holy Innocents

The Feast of the Holy Innocents is celebrated in Mexico each year on December 28 in Mexico. The holiday is based on traditions from the Canary Islands, near the coast of Spain.  The day is devoted to fun — children play at being adults, and pranks (as in April Fool’s Day in North America) are part of the revelry.  But beware, if you lend any of your possessions on this day, they may never be returned.  (Image from www.HappySaints.com)

Celebrating Christmas Day with Undocumented Mexicans

After all of the late night celebrations, partying and dancing for Nochebuena (Christmas Eve), Christmas Day in South and Central America is a quieter celebration with family and friends.  In North America, traditions and celebrations intertwine.  In the words of Cuban American author, Gustavo Perez Firmat, “The older Cubans, mostly men like my father and my uncles, celebrated noche buena; their American-born grandchildren did the same for Christmas…. During these balanced years, the prospect of a Christmas morning made noche buena a little more sedate, and noche buena made Christmas a little more lively.”  (Image of undocumented Mexicans that usually cross the US border for the Holiday season.  Please see January 12, 1828 for more information.)

Celebrating Nochebuena / Christmas Eve

Nochebuena, as Christmas Eve is also known in the Americas, is joyously celebrated with family, a religious service, and a traditional dinner menu.  The traditions are varied among cultures and celebrations are often elaborate.  In Puerto Rico, the Nochebuena meal can include roast pork, pigeon peas, sausages, and a variety of side dishes.  Parrandas, essentially a caroling block party, begin during the season of Advent in Puerto Rico and continue through Nochebuena.  In Mexico, the final Posada of the season is celebrated on Christmas Eve.  The word “Posada” means inn (or hotel) and commemorates the Biblical story of the Holy Family searching for a room on the first Christmas Eve.  The Posadas begin on December 16, and are a series of nightly processions and parties as participants walk from house to house.  The Nochebuena Posada is followed by a late night Christmas mass, and then by a family dinner at midnight, which can include bacalao (cod) and ponche, a spicy fruit drink that is served warm. In whichever country, region, or tradition you are spending your holiday, we wish you a Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas. Image of book cover of the children’s story on the Flower of Christmas Eve by Tomie dePaola