Christmas in Mexico is out of this world. Mexicans don't just 'deck the halls' but deck out the whole country. Life-sized nativity scenes abound, along with papel picado strung across the streets, and large greetings beaming from colonial buildings. Schools host large nativity plays, as do public theaters. The video below shows part of one such school play, in Veracruz.
Christmas day is celebrated on the evening of December 24th for Mexicans and other Latin Americans. Usually this is a family gathering to eat special dishes and to drink ponche (a fruit punch) and adults may exchange gifts with one another.
Mexicans honor traditions based on Mary and Joseph's search for shelter in Bethlehem. The Mexican family will split into 2 groups, one representing the couple and the other representing the inn owners. The first group sings from outside the house asking for shelter. The second group sings a response from inside, then the door is opened for the outsiders to enter.
Some Christmas festivities start as early as December 15, such as La Rama in Veracruz...
The Christmas tradition unique to Veracruz
This is a regional holiday celebrated only in Veracruz state. From December 15, people take to the streets carrying a decorated tree-branch around with them as they sing a special song, collecting money in return.
Los Reyes Margos (The 3 Kings)
January 6 is the day when children get their gifts, not brought by Santa Claus nor Father Christmas, but by the same 3 men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
On this day Mexicans eat rosca de reyes a large ring-shaped bread glazed with fruit toppings. Hidden in the bread are tiny figures of the baby Jesus. If you are the unfortunate person to get the piece of bread with the figure inside, you're obligated to host a festival in February (ie. pay for all the food!)