A Cultural Christmas – Celebrating in the City

By: Lisa Coleman

About four years ago, I had a meeting in Mexico City the week before Christmas. Dreading the holiday travel, I figured the city would be stuffed with families and the hustle and bustle of celebration. Turns out that wasn’t the case at all. If you’ve surfed around our site much, you know I’m a huge Mexico City fan. Love it… always have, always will. I will happily sell it to you for hours because if you haven’t spent time there, you need to…. and you need to just before Christmas. Here’s the thing… everyone is gone. Well, I might be exaggerating (and I love to do that!), but for the most part, it’s sort of half a city at Christmas. Considering more than 20 million people generally make the roster, it’s pretty amazing to be in traffic downtown that actually moves.

Christmas is a beach holiday for the Chilangos (those living in or near Mexico City). Yep, a good number of folks say adios to the big city and opt for the fun and sun of Acapulco or the like. Now I’m not knocking the beaches at Christmas, but personally, I think the city holds much more appeal. Plus, you get to delve into the culture, and that’s what it’s all about. Mexico has amazing traditions and if you can witness a few, especially in a city, it will be a holiday to remember. I recently read an article by Judy King that comprehensively explains quite a bit… check it out at http://www.mexconnect.com/mex_/travel/jking/jkchristmas.html.

Aother bonus… a good chunk of the air pollution heads to the beach with the crowds. If you’re particulary lucky, you can actually see the snow capped volcanic peak of Popocatepetl. It’s also easy to explore the surrounding areas, including the silver city of Taxco. This is one of my favorite spots in Mexico and happens to be the main home of the Poinsettia. (I was looking for the right lead into this, but not sure it worked… anyway…) It was a native plant to the region and probably would have stayed that way if it weren’t for the efforts of one Joel Robers Poinsett. As the story goes: “The son of a French physician, Poinsett was appointed as the first United States Ambassador to Mexico (1825 – 1829) by President Madison. Poinsett had attended medical school himself, but his real love in the scientific field was botany. (Mr. Poinsett later founded the institution which we know today as the Smithsonian Institution).

Poinsett maintained his own hothouses on his Greenville, South Carolina plantations, and while visiting the Taxco area in 1828, he became enchanted by the brilliant red blooms he saw there. He immediately sent some of the plants back to South Carolina, where he began propagating the plants and sending them to friends and botanical gardens.Among the recipients of Poinsett’s work was John Bartram of Philadelphia, who in turn gave the plant over to another friend, Robert Buist, a Pennsylvania nurseryman. Mr. Buist is thought to be the first person to have sold the plant under its botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima (literally, “the most beautiful Euphorbia”). Though it is thought to have become known by its more popular name of poinsettia around 1836, the origin of the name is certainly clear.”

I bet you didn’t know that! I think I am getting caught up in all of this so I’ll wrap it up. I know it’s a bit late to plan for this year, but consider Mexico City, even Guadalajara or Puebla for a special treat next Christmas. I mean there is a point where malls, animatronic reindeer and Santas have to get old… right?

Feliz Navidad!

One thought on “A Cultural Christmas – Celebrating in the City”

  1. Perhaps it is too late for visitors to this site to read, but if you want a top of the line Christmas experience, you should attend the Christmas concert at the National Palace (on the Zocalo) today December 14th at 7:00 PM. An excellent early music group (Cornettos, harpsichord and voice) from the UK will be performing Christmas Musics from the time Christmas was a true spiritual experience. A concert of this caliber in a city like New York would probably cost US$20-US$50 per ticket to attend. This concert is free.

    The concert will take place in the National Palace libraly on one of the beautiful courtyards of the National Palace. This is a beautuful and very intimate colonial building that used to be a chapel for the viceroys and now serves as a library with historic books. You can enter by the main gate in front of the Zocalo. Just tell the guards you are going to attend the concert and they will tell you where to go.

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