Christmas Around the World – Part 1 of 3

mexicoOver the recent years, I have been learning new Christmas traditions and rituals in other parts of the world, particularly the UK. In one of my recent posts, I talked about Christmas crackers which was something new to me. Growing up in California, Christmas was a totally different thing. For one, we didn’t have snow unless we went up to the mountains and the ski resorts, so our holidays were usually perfectly sunny and clear or gray and rainy. With my dad being from Mexico and having spent a Christmas one year with his relatives, we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve with tamales until midnight on Christmas day when we got to open our presents. Then after the births of my nieces and nephews, we started doing Christmas presents late in the day instead of the morning because we waited for my oldest sister to arrive from her husband’s family’s traditions. We switched up the days we did Christmas. Some years it was Christmas Eve, other years it was Christmas Day. Usually it depended on the circumstances of my oldest sister.

In today’s post as a part of my holiday series, I’m going to talk about traditions. My family doesn’t have an entirely regular tradition but at least we all try to get together for the holidays. I’m trying to incorporate more tradition into my life, like eat tamales, try to watch A Christmas Story and Elf at least once a year, and to try something new, like the Christmas Crackers which the nieces and nephews really enjoyed.

MinceWhile people in the US have their own traditions and customs, the British have something a little more different. The British call Santa Claus “Father Christmas” who will leave presents in stockings or pillow cases at the ends of the beds, by the beds of the children, or by the fireplace in homes. Instead of the standard milk and cookies left out for Father Christmas, he gets a nice brandy and mince pie. Letters are written to Father Christmas but instead of being put to the post, they are tossed into the fireplace where the smoke is drifted to Father Christmas so he can read them. The people of Britain also send Christmas cards, buy gifts, sing carols. The Queen delivers a Christmas Day message to the Commonwealth broadcast from her home reflecting on the year gone by.

cakeAnother thing the British and Americans have in common is that nearly everyone bakes and eat goodies for the holidays. While the Americans make Christmas cookies, fudge, and peppermint bark, the British celebrate the holidays with mince pies, Christmas puddings, and the Christmas cake. Today I will talk about the mince pie.  In the US, these are relatively unknown but huge in Britain. A mince pie nowadays consists of candied peels, vine fruits like currant and sultanas, which is a type of raisin in Britain, and apples inside a pastry crust. These are the most common ingredients inside the mincemeat. You can enjoy them hot or cold and you can either make them yourself (a lovely recipe here on our very own blog and get the mincemeat here or even try these.

Mince pies originally had various chopped meats in them, hence the name mincemeat pie. It is believed mince pies were made to use to use up leftovers in the 16th century in order to keep the meat supply going but over the years, the recipes have been adjusted to what people know today. The pies were originally oblong in shape to represent the cradle of the Christ but they are round today and the meat has been omitted.

Next time I will discuss Christmas cake and Christmas pudding.


Flag of Mexico

Unlike many other flags around the world, Mexico’s national flag is one that has not changed significantly since its first version in 1821. The design of the first Mexican flag was greatly influenced by the flags Mexicans were using during the War of Independence from Spain.  Many of these rebel flags included the eagle on a cactus and the official flag colors: green, white, and red.

Agustín de Iturbide officially decreed Mexico’s first national flag in November 1821, following Mexico’s independence from Spain, although the the flag was not officially used until July 1822.  The flag included the vertical tricolor of green, white, and red, and the national coat of arms, the crowned eagle, in the center.

When Mexico became a federal republic in 1823, the government altered the flag slightly.  Instead of a crowned eagle, the eagle was depicted with a serpent in its right talon.  The flag also included the oak and laurel branches that are still included in the Mexican flag today.

The Federal Republic of Mexico gave way in 1865 to the Second Mexican Empire, and once again, the flag changed.  Still keeping the vertical green, white, and red tricolor pattern, the Emperor Maximilian ordered the ratio of the flag to be changed and for the flag to include four crowned eagles, one in each corner of the flag.  Each eagle stands on a cactus, which is on a rock in a lake, holding a snake in its mouth.

Mexico’s current national flag was approved by President Venustiano Carranza’s decree in 1916, officially adopted on September 16, 1968, and confirmed by law on February 24, 1984.  The current flag still includes the tricolor green, white, and red, but the eagle is no facing to the side instead of to the front.

The Mexican flag is rich in symbolism and history.  The green strip symbolizes the Independnce Movement of the early 19th century.  The white symbolizes the purity of the Catholic religion.  The red symbolizes both the blood of Mexico’s national heroes and recognizes the Spaniards that joined the Mexicans in the fight for independence.  The shield in the center of the white stripe includes an eagle eating a snake, standing on a prickly pear cactus that is on a rock in the middle of a lake.  This coat of arms has its roots in an Aztec legend: the Aztec gods told them to build their city where they found this exact scene.  The Aztecs followed this command and built their first city where Mexico City is today.