In Canada for the holidays this year, I'm hanging onto the memories of the past two Christmases spent in Mexico. Once the Fiesta for the Virgin of Guadalupe is out of the way, the Posadas kick into gear. Posada means "inn" or "shelter" From the 16th of December until the 25th–9 nights– neighbourhoods recreate the journey made by Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Now, pulling this off on every one of the 9 nights is quite a task; most neighbourhoods will organize it for one, or a few of the nights. A procession gathers with either a nativity being carried or two members of the community playing the parts of Mary and Joseph. They go to a few houses and are turned away: "No room at the inn!" until they reach a home where eventually they will be allowed entry. A special song is sung; the travellers pleading for entry, and the family inside initially turns them away.. "no way, we don't know who you are, get lost.." They really are quite uncivil at first until finally these "innkeepers" are convinced that they've got some pretty special folks they could have the privilege of hosting. It's quite a back and forth, and once allowed in, a well-deserved fiesta ensues. CLick here to read the lyrics of the Posada; you'll see what I mean about uncivil–downright rude in fact!
The fiesta is always the best part. There's a great big piñata, primarily for the kids, but you can see here some bigger fellas are getting in on the action. Tamales, bunuelos(delicious giant discs of fried dough, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar), hot chocolate or ponche (hot fruit punch- here's a link to the recipe I used when I made it a couple of years ago) are served and generally, the entire neighbourhood has had a hand in preparing things or, take turns hosting each year. It's quite a burden to put the party together.
But my favourite thing? Tamales. Of course tamales are served year round, but at Christmas time the corn husk packaging, especially when tied at both ends reminds me of the Christmas crackers we used to get in my childhood. There is just something so festive about tamales. I'm gaining a reputation for being obsessed with tamales, and to celebrate my adopted home of Mexico, which in some ways feels so far away right now, I made some extra special tamales this year. Among them, duck with hazelnut mole and cherry studded masa. THey've yet to be cooked and tasted but here they are in their festive wrapping. I'l report on the reviews later! For now, Feliz Navidad to all and enjoy this video of Bunuelos being made: