The missionaries introduced the presentation of the Pastoralas. Those Shepherds’ plays have now become an important element within the Mexican Christmas traditions. Children love to dramatize the events that took place at the time of Jesus’ birth. Such dramatizations help the children to learn the Christmas story, just as they once helped the Native Americans to learn the Christmas story.
In the days leading up to Christmas, the children in the Pastoralas mimic the actions of Mary and Joseph. They go from home to home, looking for some sort of lodging. Finally the pair that plays the part of Mary and Joseph reaches the door of the inn. There they learn that they can spend the night in the stables.
Now the pageantry of the Mexican Christmas traditions would not be complete with the performance of a single story line. That is why the children later perform a different sort of Pastoralas. Later, usually after Christmas Eve, the children put on a show that depicts the shepherds tending their sheep. An “angel” appears before those shepherds, and directs them to the manager, where the baby Jesus is sleeping.
The story that the children act out on the streets also offers specifics about the characters used to decorate the Mexican homes. During the Mexican Christmas season, every home has a large nativity scene. According to the Mexican Christmas traditions, that scene typically has a far greater prominence than the Christmas tree.
The approach of the Mexican Christmas does not cause the Mexican children to have visions of presents under the tree. It might cause them to anticipate the taste of the Christmas tamales. The approach of Christmas might find the children making tamales. Those are part of the Christmas Eve feast.
According to Mexican Christmas traditions, the children can be given gifts on Christmas Eve. Yet the children of Mexico are more apt to expect gifts on the Day of Epiphany, the day when the Three Kings arrived at the bedside of Jesus. In between Christmas Eve and the Day of Epiphany, the children might enjoy a bit of joking and kidding.
Joking and kidding is, for some strange reason, the primary activity on December 28th. The Mexican Christmas traditions recognize the significance of that day. That is also known as the “Day of Holy Innocents,” because it is the day when Herod ordered the killing of all the Jewish infants.
During the typical Mexican Christmas, the Holiday decorations stay in place until after the Day of Epiphany. Only then can a Mexican family consider dismantling the large nativity scene. Only then can the family say with confidence that all aspects of the Nativity scene have been represented in either the decorations or the children’s dramatizations.
In one very important way, the Mexican Christmas is a lot like the Christmas in any country. The customs within the Mexican Christmas focus on the sorts of things that can bring the largest smiles to the faces of the small, Mexican children.