By Tim Leeds
A piece of the Mexican holiday will be in Havre this weekend.
The Havre-Hill County Library is hosting Christmas In Mexico on Saturday, the third in its annual Christmas Around the World series.
Librarian Francine Brady has been decorating the library's meeting room for the event, researching Mexican Christmas traditions and coordinating traditional holiday food for the event, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m.
Brady will give a presentation about Mexican traditions shortly after the celebration starts, probably about 1:15 or 1:30 p.m.
The meeting room will be filled with traditional decorations like Christmas luminarias, a pinata, and manger scenes.
"(Mexicans) do huge manger scenes," Brady said. "It becomes a focal point of the home."
Other Christmas traditions, such as poinsettia and the Eye of the God, colored string or yarn woven around crossed sticks with a new color added for each year of a child's life through about age 5, will also be displayed.
Refreshments will include traditional cookies, salsa and chips, cocoa and coffee, with the option of following the Mexican tradition of adding cinnamon, and other possible treats like empanadas.
Brady said there is no real rhyme or reason to which country is presented each year. This year's choice was partly because the library has already featured Spain, and the two countries' Christmas traditions are similar. The library's other celebrations were a German Christmas and a Ukrainian Christmas.
Spain and Mexico also have differences in their celebrations, Brady said. A traditional celebration in Spain is Jan. 6, Three Kings Day, to note the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem. Three-king cake is served, with a coin that is supposed to bring good luck to its finder.
In Mexico, bakers place a small figurine representing the Christ child in rosca de reyes. The finder, proclaimed king of the fiesta, is expected to host everyone in the room on Candlemas, Feb. 2.
Brady listed other Mexican traditions that might be quite foreign to Americans. Different regions of the country celebrate the holiday in different ways, often mixed with traditions predating the arrival of Christianity in Mexico.
She said Santa Claus is not part of the celebration. Children send letters or requests for gifts to the Christ child, and gifts are traditionally left in their shoes, rather than stockings, on Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, Jan. 6.
The traditional 12 days of Christmas are days between the birth of Christ and Epiphany, not the 12 days before Christmas as they are typically celebrated in the United States. The celebration of the birth of Christ is relatively new to Mexico, Brady said.
Some areas of Mexico do incorporate a kindly old man into the celebration. This figure is Quetzalcoatl, formerly the Aztec sun god who was believed to have taught the Aztecs civilization and was responsible for the beauty of the Christmas season and springtime. The original figure of the god, in Aztec and Toltec civilizations, was of a feathered snake.
Another Mexican tradition at the library celebration will be cascarones, real eggs Brady is filling with confetti. Bumping someone on the head with a cascarone is supposed to make their wishes come true, which is based on traditions going back to Roman times.
The Christmas in Mexico celebration is free and open to the public, and anyone interested in celebrating the holiday and learning more about Mexican Christmas traditions is invited.