Christmas in Mexico — my first year in the country, I thought that was an oxymoron. How could it ever feel like Christmas here without snow on the ground; without a fire in the fireplace; without the fireplace?!

Well, my first Christmas here and every one of them since have felt like the most wonderful Christmases in the world.  Starting with the celebrations of the posadas in early December, Mexico certainly knows how to bring the spirit of the season to life! And, of course, the party doesn’t end with the New Year — instead, the festivities are drawn out to January 6, when the Reyes Magos come to pay Mexican children a visit.

The drinks and the food are different from what we’re used to in the States, but that’s part of the fun.  Instead of eggnog, there’s ponche, and instead of the Christmas ham or turkey we’re accustomed to, turkey is cooked with a very different type of stuffing and other goodies like bacalao.

I guess when it comes down to it, Christmas is pretty much the same everywhere if you’re with the right people.  My family loves to come visit me here at Christmas time (I’m pretty sure it’s just to escape the cold, but that’s ok!), and they’re very happy and very much at home here in a country which has a language they don’t speak and customs they don’t necessarily understand.  But the fact that we can all be together — my husband’s family and mine — makes us all feel something pretty special.

I think that in Mexico, just like everywhere, some of the significance of Christmas has been lost in the shuffling of gifts and the commercial aspect that we’ve allowed to take over.  It’s important that we adults don’t let our kids forget why we celebrate Christmas, even if we don’t focus on the religious aspects of it.  We can simply stress the importance of family and the love and respect that we should all offer one another.  As a teacher, I have the perfect opportunity to give my students time to reflect upon Christmas and what it means to them, and I’ve resolved to really concentrate on that this year.

So, maybe I’ll never see snow on the ground for Christmas here in Mexico City; and maybe I’ll never have a reason to light a fireplace on Christmas Eve (I probably wouldn’t have a fireplace to light anyway!), but I know I’ll always be surrounded by the people I love most in this world and that’s the best Christmas gift anyone could receive.