|Musical Chairs (I'm in the purple sweater)|
While living near Mexico City, I joined my wife's aunts, uncles and cousins for Christmas celebrations twice.
The celebrations started late Christmas Eve, and, if I remember correctly, we had attended mass before hand with my mother-in-law. The community where the aunts and uncles lived was about a 10 minute walk away. The community had been built up from cheap lots, in one of those places where residents built up, one storey at a time, little by little. It had been around long enough so the narrow roads were now lined with 2 and three storey homes, many flush to the side walk, and others with wrought-iron gates, almost all reasonably painted. While the community still has the distinct flavour of its working-class residents, and is by no means "nice" or "upscale," at Christmas time, with many homes decorated with lights, nativity scenes in the garages, to be seen between the bars of the gate, and Christmas trees to be seen through the windows, it holds a certain charm.
Upon arriving to the house where the great aunt and uncle lived, who are parents of the family - an aging couple who partially raised my father-in-law - we were warmly greeted by all the family; my father-in-law's second cousins (who my wife calls aunts and uncles), their wives and children, some of whom were already married with infant children.
|Some of the aunts, uncles and cousins chatting before dinner|
The large, long and delicious dinner included turkey, rice, various kinds of salad and gelatin, and something distinct to Mexico City's Christmas called "romeritos" (a thin, leafy vegetable cooked with mole and shrimp).
While dinner was being finished, one of the uncles stood up and gave a little speech. The speech was mostly recalling good memories and thanking other family members. The speech started with the usual happy but not very emotional tones that most such speeches start. After a few minutes though, a memory of something very emotional arose (I didn't understand enough to get exactly what it was about) and the uncle began crying. Soon other aunts, uncles and cousins were getting up to hug the first uncle, and making their own tearful speeches.
The first Christmas when this happened, I leaned over to my wife, asking if there had been some tragedy in the family.
"Nothing specific," she explained quietly. "This happens every year. It's normal."
The second time I experienced the tearful speeches, I saw the same pattern, and felt assured in my wife's explanation. I guess the combination of tequila, good food, having the whole family together again and sharing warm memories is a good recipe for letting your emotions flow.
At some point there was also a piñata, outside in the street, and a few rounds of musical chairs (see pictures). I can't remember the exact order, though.
Afterwards, more tequila was served, some people mixing with grapefruit soda (Fresca or Squirt). Some people began to dance in the small living room.
I can't remember exactly what time we left, but I remember that it was really late (not for the aunts and uncles - they were still ready to go longer), I was really tired and, despite my best intentions, I felt just a little tipsy from the liquor. There were a lot of hugs, thank yous, and invitations extending over the entire next year. Fortunately, we found a taxi when we arrived at the main road.
While I'm not one for all night parties, I have to say that my Christmases in Mexico City were very memorable, warm and I felt a true welcome from my wife's family.