By Marie Hoyer

In the south-western area of the United States many Christmas customs are patterned after those in Mexico. Farolitos, or luminaries, are small paper bags filled halfway with sand. The bags may be plain or decorated, with a candle placed inside. Multiple bags can be placed along a path and the candles are lit on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, they were to light a place for Joseph and Mary to stay. Now they are used as a decorative item.

In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from December 12 to January 6 with El Ninito Dios (baby Jesus) and Santo Clos (Santa Claus) bringing gifts. A 3 Kings Cake, known as Rosca de Reyes, is traditional to have on Epiphany. A figure of baby Jesus is hidden within and whoever finds it in their slice of cake is the Godparent of Jesus for that year. Many nativity sets are set out with the Jesus figure added on Christmas Eve.

Posadas are one of the main celebrations in Mexico. Groups of families and neighbors travel to homes asking for shelter, representing the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. They are refused until the last house. Upon entering they are treated to food and drink. Prayers are said before the nativity scene and a piñata is set up for the children.

Some favorite holiday food and drinks are ponche, a drink made from fruits, hot chocolate, and tamales.