Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fools and Food

In Mexico two especially fun holidays follow Christmas.  Unlike many holidays, which involve travel plans for long weekends, without any consideration of the meaning of the holiday, these two involve activities appropriate to each of the days.  Neither one is a civil holiday involving a day off work 

The first of these is today, December 28, Day of the Holy Innocents. It recalls the boys under the age of two killed by King Herod when he learned from the Three Kings that He who was to be King of the Jews had been born in his realms and might be competing with him for power.  (Lest you think my last sentence confusing because of the use of the word 'him' referring to two different persons, please do note that one is in upper case and the other lower.)  Of course the placement of the commemoration of this day, in the calendar, is way off base -- if we chose to accept the placement of two other important days in the Christian calendar.   The Kings arrived on January 6th, and On February 2nd Mary hadn't yet left on her flight to Egypt, she was presenting her child in the temple in Jerusalem forty days after His birth.  Nevertheless, in but another example of the vagaries of the Christian calendar, December 28th is the designated day.  

Despite its gruesome origin, Day of the Holy Innocents has converted into one of great fun for Mexicans and much of the Spanish-speaking world. In some ways it is like April Fools day in the English speaking world.  Traditionally the objective is to get someone to lend you something, which then does not need to be returned for a full year.  When the loan is obtained the laugh will be on the one who has been tricked, by saying "inocente palomita que te dejaste engañar, sabiendo que en este día nada se puede prestar" ("innocent little dove who allowed yourself to be tricked, knowing that on this day nothing can be lent."); or a variation thereof.   I don't know how the dove got into the equation, but that's the way it is.

In a different manifestation of the day, even staid and serious newspapers will publish a whole page of news which is credible but steps over the line of 'too good or too bad to be true'.  Ask your news vendor today for papers which have done this.  It's not always the same papers, however this year, with Julian Assange's contributions, I expect there will be many participating newspapers.  You might also listen carefully to what you hear on radio or TV news programs, being leery of repeating it, lest you become the brunt of the joke. 

While Santa Claus makes greater inroads into Mexico with each passing year, by now he has been banished til next year. Until January 6th, Santa’s place has been taken by the Three Kings of Orient and their appropriate beasts of burden.  

Set some time aside one of these evenings to go to downtown Mexico City and walk the length of Alameda Park.  You don't need to be a child to enjoy it --  if you  have children, so much the better.  Even though you take your camera, I suggest you let a photographer at one of the dioramas set up along the length of the park take your picture atop an elephant, camel, or horse, or standing next to them in the company of Balthasar, of Nubia; Gaspar, of Tharsus; and Melchior of Sheba.

In Mexico, January 6th, Epiphany, is the second day of great fun for children and adults alike.  It is a hectic time for parents; children are expecting gifts, just as Baby Jesus received gifts from the Wise Men.  On the night of January 5th, many of Mexico's toy stores will stay open til the last customer leaves -- double and triple parked cars out in 
front often can cause traffic congestion in the middle of the night.

You're probably already seeing roscas in the bakeries, don't be fooled into thinking this is just a wreath of sweet bread that it is to be consumed today.  Roscas are essential for the Mexican celebration of Epiphany.  Inside each baked rosca is at least one tiny Baby Jesus.  At Epiphany parties you'll slice your own piece of rosca; if it should contain a Baby Jesus you have entertaining in your future, for you will be expected to host a tamale party on February 2nd, Candlemass Day.

The bread is sweet and tasty; that tends to override the temptation of cutting a very thin slice.  Buen provecho.

No comments:

Post a Comment