November 28th, 2016
We won’t be having your normal party. There won’t be any cupcakes. No balloons or pointed little hats. This December, Room 130 is going south of the border to learn more about our neighbor —Mexico.
Over 17% of our country is Hispanic, which is the largest minority group in America, and according to the New York Times, America has more Spanish speakers than Spain. More than half of the foreign-born population in the US is from Latin America, with more immigrants coming from Mexico than any other country.
Yet, many of us have little exposure to the rich culture of a significant and growing population in our own country and an important neighbor to the south.
In December and January, Room 130 will experience Mexico and its traditions through a look at the holidays Mexicans celebrate during this time of the year. This study will be in conjunction with our reading of Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Esperanza Rising is about a young girl from Mexico who must move to California to start a new life after family tragedies in Mexico.
Nuestro Fiesta de Navidad
Our class will learn about Mexico through study of the following traditions celebrated during this time of the year:
- Arbol de Navidad—typically a decorated artificial tree or shrub. Ours is will be displayed with Flores de Noche Buena (poinsettias).
- El Nacimiento—the primary holiday display in most Mexican homes, a nativity scene, complete with moss, lights, animals, cactus, mountains, and many people.
- Las Posadas—celebrated from December 16th to December 24th (Noche Buena). This is a reenactment of the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem. Entire towns in Mexico form processions to “seek shelter” in the inn (posada) and have a huge fiesta when they finally find room in the stable. Children are usually treated to a piñata.
- Noche Buena—December 24th, the last night of Las Posadas processions. This evening usually involves a meal with traditional tamales (corn husks lined with corn dough and filling and steamed), and champurrado (a corn-thickened hot chocolate). Buñuelos de Navidad (fried flour tortillas with sugar and cinnamon) are also enjoyed.
- Dia de los Reyes—Three Kings Day, January 6th. This is the traditional day in Mexico that children receive gifts. Their shoes are left out and they awake to find little gifts in their shoes left by the visiting Wise Men.
In addition to studying about these Mexican traditions, our fiesta will include making traditional Mexican tacos (not like Taco Bell!), buñuelos, and Mexican hot chocolate (move over Swiss Miss!), having a piñata, singing a few traditional canciónes (songs), and playing games. Later in the day, we’ll play the Jewish dreidel game and compare that game and tradition to a similar game Mexican children play.
The ultimate goal will be to experience the culture of such a large and growing portion of our own country and one of our nearest neighbors. This will allow us to celebrate the differences among cultures, appreciate the wealth of diversity our country enjoys, and recognize the value of our own traditions and cultures. The hope is that the world will become a little smaller place to Room 130. And so, to that end,
¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!
Does your family have a holiday tradition that you would like to share with our class? Feel free to comment, email or send in a note and we’ll compare and contrast with Mexican traditions.