¡Jo, jo, jo!

 Plaza fiesta family

Whether you say, “Ho, ho, ho!” or “¡Jo, jo, jo!”  with less than forty-eight hours until Christmas, are some of us getting just a wee bit tired of hearing and saying “Happy Holidays”? In Mexico, “Feliz Navidad” still reigns supreme. The faithful, and many of the not so faithful, go ‘round knocking on doors and singing the song that asks about lodging for Mary and Joseph. Of course, in the posadas, the answer is always “no” until the last door where the pilgrims are invited in for food and drink. Then the posada photos start showing up on Facebook and Pinterest. There are pastorelas, traditional plays where characters struggle—often in comic ways—on their journey toward eternal life.

There are parties with piñatas, Christmas carols and Mexican hot chocolate, atole and champurrado to accompany the pan dulce and other sweets. And, of course, Christmas means tamale time in Mexico. Extended families gather in kitchens and, assembly-line style, produce hundreds of tamales. The fillings can vary as much as the size, appearance and wrappings.  

Meanwhile, over the last two weeks in the United States, the news media and social media have worked themselves into a frenzy over the question of Santa’s ethnicity. A high school teacher was put on leave for telling an African-American student he shouldn’t be wearing a Santa hat and beard because everybody knows Santa’s white. Aisha Harris, an African-American reporter wrote an article suggesting Santa should be portrayed as a penguin instead of a white man. A white news anchor declared that Santa is what he is, meaning a white guy. Before long everybody in the country wanted to get in his two cents.  

Plaza fiesta santaHarris had a good point about the message kids of color get when Santa is always white, and the U.S. media rushed to interview Santas of color all last week. If a Santa Penguin lobby pops up, though, they’d do well to reach out to kids beyond the U.S. borders. The image to the left is from the Facebook page of Plaza Fiesta San Agustín, a major mall in the upscale Monterrey suburb of San Pedro Garza García. The ad says, “Come and have your photo taken with Santa Claus in the Christmas Village.”

Galerias Santa in FinlandThe Santa to the right, skis, snow and all, is from the website for the twenty-two Galerías Malls throughout Mexico. Proof of purchase for at least $400 pesos ($30 U.S. dollars) will get you a ticket in the contest for a trip to Finland.

Santa los altos chileThe photo to the left which says, “Come Live a White Christmas,” is from Los Altos Mall in Chile. There’s Santa in all his bundled-up, stereotypical glory while the kids are wearing sleeveless tops. Of course, December is summertime in Chile.

Galerias sleighMany Latin American cultures have adopted a lot more than just Santa from the northern hemisphere Christmas images.  Consider the messages in these ads with their pine trees, snow and light-skinned people. The photo to the right, from Galerías Malls, shows a sleigh. Never mind that Weatherspark.com, shows December highs in Monterrey average 73-69 degrees.

Centro Andino Bogota snowAnd according to Wiki.answers.com, it’s never snowed in Bogotá, Colombia since weather has been recorded, but you wouldn’t  know that looking at this ad for Centro Andino Mall.

Plaza Fiesta Christmas boot houseThe photo at the top of the post, “Make sure your loved ones always remember the best of Christmas,”  is the cover photo on the Plaza Fiesta Facebook page.Looking at it and the one to the right, on the same Facebook page, you’d assume the photos were taken in an American mall.

Traditionally in Mexico, the Reyes Magos, or Three Wise Men, brought children small gifts on the Epiphany, January 6th. Often, they simply left a few coins in the shoes children had set out for them. Another version was that el Niño Dios, Baby Jesus, left gifts on Christmas. These days in Monterrey, with its proximity to the U.S., Santa holds the #1 spot. 

I asked a faithful Mexican reader of “The Other Side of the Peso” to tell Americans what his Christmas is like. San Pedro resident Juan Pablo, twelve years old, wrote the following in English. “When I was younger, I believed that Santa Claus brought me presents. I imagined him as an old man with a white beard wearing red clothes. I still remember when I was six-years-old, he brought me a castle full of knights and animals.”

Nowadays, what is Christmas like for Juan Pablo?  “I participate in posadas at school, with friends and family. I help my family with the Christmas decorations. I normally spend Christmas Eve at my great grandmother’s house with all my mother´s family. And on the 25th with all my father’s family.”

Juan Pablo would like Americans to know that, “Christmas in Mexico is full of joy and family. It’s a time to give. There are a lot of campaigns that help the people in need.” More than fighting crowds at the mall or arguing about Santa’s color, isn’t this what Christmas should be about?

Let’s end with a fun shout out to Mexico’s Galerías website for the best interactive Christmas games. No guarantee how long this link or any others in this post will stay active, but kids of all ages can enjoy playing El Viaje de Santa, or Santa’s Trip.


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