Christmas in Cabo San Lucas – Seasonal Cheer at Land’s End
There is something very special about the holidays, particularly in Mexico, where the festive season persists for close to two months and includes many holy days that are not commonly celebrated in the U.S. It is a period of frequent fiestas, so much so that the month long holiday period between December 12, the day honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe, and January 6, the remembrance of Los Tres Reyes (the three wise men), is only half-jokingly referred to as the Guadalupe – Reyes marathon. But despite the plethora of parties that accompany holiday-themed events, the Christmas season in Mexico is in large part a time of devout observances and intimate gatherings with family and friends.
The town square in Cabo San Lucas, Plaza Amelia Wilkes, is annually strung with enough holiday-themed ornaments and decorations to wrap the central gazebo in a veil of bright, carnivalesque colors. The plaza is also home to a large, lavishly bedecked Christmas tree, and a beautiful nativity scene (in Spanish, nacimiento) that is located near the natural history musem’s whale skeleton exhibit. Sponsored programs and presentations are a holiday staple at the plaza, and include art, music, food tastings, and recreations of events surrounding the birth of Christ.
Nativity scenes are commonly displayed here, both publicly and privately, and in addition to the nacimiento at Plaza Amelia Wilkes, there is always an excellent display at Plaza Bonita near the Cabo San Lucas Marina. Beyond the lovely holiday decorations, however, the spirit of the season is expressed in the succession of holy days that stretch from the beginning of Las Posadas on December 16th through Candlemas on February 2nd. These religious holidays each have their own traditions and rituals, and for curious visitors, provide interesting insights into the Catholic core of Mexican culture.
Las Posadas last for nine days, from December 16th through the 24th, and commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Each night there are candlelit processions and reenactments, which culminate in house parties after admittance has been granted at the “inn.” The most important day of the season in Mexico is not Christmas, but Christmas Eve (Nochebuena). This is the last night of the posadas, and the birth of Christ is celebrated at midnight. Traditionally, families then attend a midnight mass, followed by dinner and presents. Christmas Day is quite low-key and leisurely, with most feasting on the leftovers (called recalentado) from the previous night’s dinner.
El Dia de los Santos Inocentes
Holy Innocents Day, also known as Childermas, is on December 28th, and is a remembrance of King Herod’s decree that all male infants in Bethlehem should be killed in order to eliminate the threat to his throne posed by the baby Jesus, whose birth he had learned of from the three wise men. The day is also celebrated as a Mexican version of April Fool’s Day, with jokes, pranks, tall tales, and elaborate hoaxes. One should greet all statements made on this day with a healthy amount of skepticism, and under no circumstances should money be lent, as tradition holds that any debts incurred on this day do not have to be honored.
The relationship of New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day is somewhat like that of Christmas Eve to Christmas, meaning the first day is given over to family dinners and celebrations, while the second day is for rest, relaxation and the enjoyment of leftovers. After the dinner on New Year’s Eve, many people go out to enjoy the local parties and theme nights, which run the gamut from barefoot beachfront formals to masked carnivals. Fireworks are a staple of virtually every Mexican celebration, but the New Year in Cabo San Lucas is always greeted with a particularly dazzling display over Medano Beach. Once the clock strikes midnight, it is also traditional to eat twelve grapes, with the grapes representing good fortune for the next twelve months.
El Dia de los Tres Reyes
The three kings are better known to English speakers as the three wise men – Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar – who journeyed to Bethlehem with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As with Christmas Eve, this is a day for children to open presents, and for gatherings of friends and family. One of the signature treats associated with this holiday is a sweet bread called rosca de reyes. There is a miniature figure of the baby Jesus hidden inside the bread, and the person who finds it is expected to have a tamales party on Candlemas, February 2nd.
Candlemas marks the end of the long Christmas season in Cabo San Lucas, but one of the heights of the tourist season, as snowbirds flee frigid temperatures north of the border for sunshine, beaches, whale watching, golf, and other activities not normally associated with wintry cheer.
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