December 23rd is the Fiesta of the Rabanos in the Zocalo. Huge radishes are grown just for the annual carving up into all manner of scenes, animals and whatever the imagination conjures up which are all on display and then judged. You can read a more detailed description of the Rabanos in an earlier post here.
The Zoc was packed so my friend Sharon and I made our way slowly to the Palacio to listen to a music group…Las Tunas…a hilariously funny singing group of guys all dressed up in Medieval Spanish costume…looking quite ridiculous. A suited up guy came out of the Palacio in the middle of a crowd of people around him. Hey look, the new Governor! God is he good-looking!
Christmas week I had a rotten cold and four Couchsurfers…two on the living room floor. The first couple (Mexican and Dutch) was hitch-hiking, and getting into Oaxaca a few days late, overlapped with the second couple (Swiss and French Lao).
But on the 24th I had promised a Mexican family I would be there for Christmas Eve dinner and I just couldn’t take an extra 4 people and it was a damn good thing. What time, I asked. Oh, 7 or 8. Ok, I thought, I’ll go at 8. I picked up my friend Max. I hadn’t had anything to eat since 6 in the morning. 9 came and went and I didn’t think anything of it. But then 10…and then 11. I had forgotten the custom was to eat Christmas eve dinner at midnight!
Ok, the man of the family who shall remain anonymous, said, come in the morning for breakfast at 11. It is the custom to eat left-overs from the night before for breakfast. Max and I got there at 11:15. No breakfast. Nobody said anything. 12 came. 1 came. 2 came. (I suspect the esposo (husband) had forgotten to tell his wife he had invited us. No surprise there!) Then another friend (born and reared in Italy; lived in the US, Oaxaca and Spain and now Oaxaca again) showed up and she knew immediately what was going on! About 4 she says, Oh, come eat with us! By this time it was time for cena (the last meal of the day) so we all happily went to eat left-overs with her and her husband and her two grown kids visiting from the U.S and Spain.
Mexicans celebrate New Year’s Eve or locally known as Año Nuevo, by downing a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties, during New Year’s, with colors such as red, to encourage an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow to encourage blessings of improved employment conditions, green to improve financial circumstances and white to improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm (in Oaxaca it is a tiny plastic Jesus) hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient whose slice contains the coin or charm is believed to be blessed with good luck in the new year and they are supposed to give the next fiesta party. They don’t…they just laugh.
New Years Eve I was in bed by 8 trying to enjoy some badly needed sleep interspersed with fireworks, rockets, banda music, church bells, laughing and squealing.
Next year I will know better.