Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cancun New Year's Eve

Why is that gringa taking pictures of underwear?

New Year's Eve, always a day filled with high expectations of big celebrations and the promise of a fresh start in a new year. Everyone and every place has their own traditions and the rituals in Mexico offer up some unique fun!

The Foundations. Choosing underwear colour is of prime importance. Since the beginning of December the stores have been filled with displays of red and yellow "chones" (though why the bras are all "B" cup I will never understand). Looking for passionate love? Red is for you. Looking for prosperity and success in money? Yellow panties will help fill your wallet.  

Clean start. Begin the new year preparing your space for new things, clean your house from the inside out, sweeping the old out the front door. Burn incense close to midnight as a cleansing ritual. At the toll of midnight, open the door and symbolically sweep out the old and throw a bucket of water out the window. Throw twelve coins and sweep them inside to bring money in the coming year. (note, the cleaning part is my least favourite aspect of the Mexican new year traditions but I do like the pretty incense!)

Get outta town. If you are looking to travel in the new year, take your suitcases out for a walk around the house or around the block. The further you walk, the longer your trip will be. For couch potatoes (or those who have had too much champagne to be trusted in the streets), simply place your suitcases in the middle of the room and walk around them a few times. 

Demons be gone! Fireworks (and gunfire) are said to frighten off evil spirits and demons. Midnight brings the CRACK BANG and lit up skies of "cohetes" and "bombas" followed by the smell of the acrid smoke. I'm feeling pretty confident that my neighbourhood will have a Demon-Free 2012, the fireworks have been going off nightly since the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12th.

A mouthful of wishes. With a glass of champagne in your right hand, stand on your left foot and at each chime of the clock at midnight, eat a grape and make a wish. When you are finished choking down the 12 grapes (I highly recommend seedless), drink the champagne and put your foot down, starting the year off "on the right foot". (I have never managed to complete this feat without laughing so hard I spit half-chewed grapes all over my friends. I think this year I'll stick to the more Canadian tradition of kissing the man I love.)

These are just a few of the quirky traditions you'll find in Mexico to celebrate the new year. However you celebrate, I wish you all the best for 2012, may it be a year full of love, light, happiness and adventure!

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cancun Christmas Posadas

The "pastorela" of good and evil

It's "posada" time once again in Cancun! In towns with a bit more history, this would mean embracing the traditional events of the season, children going door to door with "La Rama" singing for coins, neighbourhoods filled with processions of candle-bearing folks singing the "Pidiendo Posada" song and sharing ponche and hot chocolate, recreating Joseph and Mary's search for shelter. This is my ninth Christmas spent in Mexico and I must be honest....I've never experienced the "traditional" posada! It may exist, probably does, but "posada" seems to have a different meaning in modern Cancun. In my experience, there are three kinds of Cancun posadas.

1. The House Party Posada

Any excuse is a good excuse for a fiesta, and Christmas is as good as any. House parties flourish at this time of year, friends and family gathering together to eat, drink and be merry.  I've only been to one house party posada where the "Pidiendo Posada" song was sang and it was done after several bottles of tequila had been polished off. People wear their best chanklas and sparkly blouses and of course there is FOOD. Carne asada, tamales, or pizza and definitely a cake or flan. Everyone will bring a little something to share, lots of beer and certainly good holiday vibes.

Max's First Grade Christmas Salsa Dance Squad

2. The School Posada

Every year schools around the city hold their annual Christmas posada. Now, I didn't have any experience with kids back in Canada, but if memory serves from my own childhood, these are pretty much like normal Christmas concerts "north of border", but with a little Mexican flavour. The kids dress up for their parts, angels and devils, shepherds or snowmen, singing Christmas carols and putting on the "pastorela". The "pastorelas" put a humourous spin on the story of Joseph and Mary seeking shelter, full of "albur" (double sense) and "bombas" (traditional jokes from the Yucatan which are pretty "punny"), even when done by tiny kindergarten students. Piñatas are broken, some child always ends up crying on stage and the sugar-loaded munchkins meet Santa and get small gifts. This year Max's school put on quite a production, the school band played "Color Esperanza", there was a multilingual Christmas rap, break dancing, a "Cirque de Soleil" number with hula hoops and a presentation in English on "Christmas in Canada" (thanks Miss Sharon!) Max's first grade class did a fabulous salsa dance routine, not exactly what I think of for Christmas but it had all of us in the audience clapping and screaming as these six and seven year olds brought the "Azucar!" to the festivities.

3. The Corporate Posada

The corporate posada is akin to the company Christmas party thrown by every company around the world. Held in hotel ballrooms or restaurants, banquet food for hundreds, watered down drinks and a DJ that tries to please everyone and usually ends up pleasing no one. We eat, we dance like fools and try not to get drunk in front of the boss. Everyone sits patiently through the speeches, applauds politely, anticipating THE event of the night. Nope, it's not a piñata at the grown up parties, it´s the raffle! Every good corporate posada has giveaways and lots of them. In past years I've won a television, coffee maker, camera, dishes, I almost always walk away with something from the fiestas. This year I've got my eyes on an iPad (come on corporate Santa, bring it to me!) While it seems like an obligation to go (and it is!), the payoff is in the prizes and the after party that inevitably happens with your closest co-workers, with many beers being drunk and a karaoke contest breaking out and everyone getting home as the sun comes up.

Looking back over the archives of my Cancun Christmas past, I recall one of my favourite company posadas which took place on a pirate cruise to Isla Mujeres (only in Cancun, right?) Handsome pirates, pretty wenches, buffet dinner and open bar, can't be beat! And then, this.....the traditional Christmas spanking by 50 women?

  • What makes you think most of las posadas? This post is part of a blog hop about posadas. I encourage you to check out some of the other related posts about how others celebrate the holidays in Mexico. If you’ve written about posadas, please feel free to add a link to your post!

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Yucatan Wedding Road Trip

"You must come to a wedding with me in Valladolid".

"Is that an invitation?"

"No, it's a command, you ARE coming with me". 

And so went the conversation a few months back with one of my dearest friends. Her husband is from a small village in the Yucatan and his sister was getting married and apparently it was imperative that I attend. Fun! Road trip with a bestie, explore the village of Chichimilá, a weekend in Valladolid and my first Mexican/Mayan wedding? Of course I was in!  

City Hall Chichimilá
I had been to the colonial town of Valladolid once before for a quick visit, but I had not been to the nearby village of Chichimilá. I was tickled to discover that the name Chichimilá means "ver pezón duro", yes, "look at the hard nipple".  (Really, you can't make this stuff up my friends).

The wise women of Chichimilá

We set off on the free road a few hours later than expected, driving into the setting sun. It's a couple of hours to Valladolid from Cancun, driving through the jungle and passing villages that flash by in two seconds flat. We stopped for some dinner on the way and had the worst tamales ever made, I have never had a tamal break a fork before and I'm pretty sure there was a feather in mine. We arrived in Valladolid after dark and made our way to the hotel. My travel buddies left me to go to the village to see their family and I explored the zocalo and soaked in the laid back vibe. The square was lit up with pretty pink lights and the imposing cathedral was the backdrop for a beautiful night.

Pretty spot in the Valladolid zocalo

Cathedral, every Colonial town's gotta have one

The next day was wedding day, up and at'em early, dressed up pretty and ready for romance. In true Mexican style, everything ran late but ni modo, we were going with the flow. The village of Chichimilá is about 5 kms from Valladolid and we made it there in record time with the brother of the bride behind the wheel. I really had no idea what to expect from the wedding, but it turned out to be not much different than any other wedding I had been to. It was a typical Catholic church wedding, sweet little flower girls, the priest repeating the words that have been said a million times. Village people wandered in and out of the service, some guests were dressed to the nines, others were in jeans and chanklas, most of the women wearing the traditional huipiles. Babies cried and old ladies fanned themselves in the heat and my non-religious self was glad to not get struck by lightning for being in a church. The bride was beautiful, the groom was nervous and then they were tied together for life. Literally, ropes were put round both their necks to join them (the somewhat cynical side of me snickered at the image of marriage being like a noose).

Blessed by a ray of sun

Kicking up our heels at the reception

The rest of the day was spent celebrating at the reception. The bride's mother made delicious food, a LOT of beer was drunk and we danced to cumbia music all night long. The groomsmen carried the groom away and came back with all his clothes and the bride had to go and dress him again. The bride threw the bouquet and I deftly ducked out of the way to avoid it. There was a delicious lack of speeches and pomp, a few quick words (and I mean QUICK) from the bride's brother and bam, back to the party. Late that night we had a few after party tacos in Valladolid then some serious z's after a long day.

Jailed Waiter Serves Bad Food

The next day we went on the hunt for breakfast, not an easy task when the town is packed for a parade celebrating the revolution. We had bad luck once again with food, slow service and nasty food from a hole in the wall across from the zocalo. Bestie's husband was staying in the village and we were taking the express bus back to Cancun, at least that was the plan. Of course, being on Mexican time (and the running theme of the weekend was "late"), the bus was missed and we found ourselves on the second class chicken bus all the way home. All just part of the ride. It was an exhausting weekend, lots of laughs, good food, horrid food and a taste of the laid back Yucatan life.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Big Reveal

Why is Canuck so smiley?

Soo, I think it's time we played a little catch up. I've been pretty "blog blocked" lately, banging my head on the keyboard and virtually crumpling non-existent balls of paper and throwing them in the trash when I couldn't get the words to come out right. I had lost my voice. Have lost. Had lost. I guess we'll see if it comes back to me as I write this.

This last year has been so full of issues and dramas and changes, it's been tough to write about the daily goings on or adventures and NOT mention personal stuff. It's all so tied together, my trip out of town alone without Max because it's Daddy's custody weekend. My visit to Valladolid where I had fun but missed someone very much. My phenomenal escape to Tulum with someone amazing. There were a variety of reasons I wasn't sharing the personal, some valid, some I'll have to talk about with my shrink, but I guess I am ready to come out of the dark, find my voice and get on with my adventures.

Since separating from Max's Dad, life has moved forward. Not many changes really, at least nothing major like a household move. (Most of the changes are inside of me, good things, healthy things). Max changed schools and that was an adjustment at first, but he seems to be settling in. Max's Dad has moved in with someone else and her kids, but that really is a story that won't be shared here, his story, not mine (well, not really). Max is growing and maturing and making me laugh, he has developed a sense of "cool" that I didn't think I would see until his teen years. It's pretty  much impossible to buy him clothes or get him dressed in the morning, he insists that he must look "pop" (read: Justin Bieber oh dear god save me).

So now, here we go, deep breath. Ooooh, finally, Canuck is going to spill the beans! Some of you have sent messages saying you are "reading between the lines" and guessing about what is going on in my life or asking "What the heck is up?". Well, here it is.....I'm involved with someone who makes me extremely happy. A romantic somebody. I'm walking on air, cartoon hearts are coming out of my eyes and I'm pretty sure if I hold still tiny songbirds will alight on my shoulders. Gross, right? Uh, yup, I'm THAT girl right now. In love. Enamorada. All kissy faces and dreamy sighs. At the moment it's a long distance love affair, burning up the Skype wires and Whatsapping all day, but we're hoping that is going to change soon. I have visited him, he has visited me and he is coming back again in a couple of weeks to celebrate the new year with me. And it all feels good. Oh so good. I'm singing "The Carpenters" for breakfast and the "Sound of Music" for lunch. And the nights were made for Barry White. Ahem.

Phew. Ok, that's out in the open. Feels good. I feel good. James Brown good. I knew that I would.

D is for Dengue, Depression and Dread

I'm currently sitting in my Cancun apartment, staving off the Covid 19 panic and using all my Jungle Kelly powers to maintain my cal...