Monday, December 15, 2008

Mexican Holiday Traditions

Legend of the Poinsettia

The legends states that there was once a young Mexican girl named Pepita who was very poor and had no gift to offer the Christ Child at Christmas Eve services. She was terribly sad as she walked to the chapel in her village.

Not knowing what else to do, she bent down by the roadside and picked some flowering weeds to take as an offering to the Nativity.

As she sauntered up to the altar, she remembered the kind words her little friend Pedro had told her, "Even the most humblest of gifts, if given in love, are acceptable in His eyes". She felt her spirits lift a little.

As she lay the bouquet of weeds down, they burst into a brilliant bloom of red. Everyone at the chapel was certain they had witnessed a Christmas miracle.

From that day on, the bright flowers were known as the "Flores de Nochebuena", the Flowers of Christmas Eve, for now they bloom each year during the Christmas season.



Las Posadas

A colorful and enjoyable Christmas tradition in the Hispanic culture: "Las Posadas". This celebration takes place from December 16th to December 24th, Christmas Eve. It is the re-enactment of the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem endured by Joseph and Mary while seeking shelter before the Christ Child was born. Posada, in Spanish, means lodging. In each one of these nights, two children, a boy and a girl, pose as Mary and Joseph. Other children act as angels and shepherds. Candles are held by each and everyone to light the way. Meanwhile parents and neighbors walk behind them as the multitude, singing and saying prayers. If the Posada is acted out in a neighborhood, a stop is made in several homes, where Mary and Joseph ask for shelter and they are turned down. At the last stop, they are welcomed, and the party begins. A piñata is provided for the children while special seasonal foods are laid out for all to enjoy. The feast usually includes tamales, capirotada, champurrado, buñuelos, and hot Mexican chocolate. Look for these recipes in the index and create your own Las Posadas Feast.

Champurrado

½ cup fresh masa (corn dough) or 1/2-cup masa flour (masa harina) mixed with a 1/4-cup hot water to blend
2 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 disk Mexican Chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons piloncillo, chopped or 1/3-cup brown sugar plus 2
teaspoons molasses
Cinnamon stick (optional)
1/4 teaspoon crushed anise seeds (optional)

Place the water and the masa into the jar of a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a medium sized saucepan. Add the milk, chocolate, piloncillo (or sugar, molasses combination) and the anise seeds if you wish to use them. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking with a molinillo or whisk until the chocolate and sugar is melted and well blended. Strain the mixture through a medium sieve (optional) and serve hot, in mugs.

Capirotada (de Chocolate)

8 slices of pound cake, cubed
3 eggs, beaten
1/3-cup milk
1-teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup dried cherries or raisins
1 medium granny smith apple
1 cup Jack cheese, shredded
Chocolate Sauce*

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a glass-baking dish.

Place half the pound cake cubes into the baking dish.

Mix eggs, milk, cinnamon and brown sugar and pour half of this mixture over the top of the cake cubes in dish.

Sprinkle half pecans, cherries or raisins, apple, and cheese on top.

Add another layer of pound cake cubes followed by the egg mixture and remaining ingredients. Top with chocolate sauce.

Bake 25 minutes or until cheese has melted. Serve with remaining chocolate sauce if desired.

*Chocolate Sauce:

1 cup half and half
1 stick cinnamon
½ disk Mexican Chocolate, chopped

Combine half and half and cinnamon stick in medium sauce pan and heat to scalding. Lower heat and add chocolate. Whisk until chocolate melts and remove from heat. Remove cinnamon stick before using.

Traditional Capirotada (Bread Pudding)

8 slices bread, toasted
3 eggs, beaten
5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup toasted, slivered almonds
½ cup unsalted peanuts
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup raisins
1 medium apple, pared, cored, and thinly sliced
1 cup Jack cheese, cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a square-baking dish.Place four bread slices in pan. Mix eggs, milk, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Pour half of milk, eggs, and sugar mixture on top. Sprinkle with half of remaining ingredients. Add another layer of bread and repeat as above. Top Capirotada with *Panocha Syrup and bake 25 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve warm or reheat, covered, for 15 minutes. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

*Panocha Syrup:
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick

Combine ingredients in a medium size saucepan. Bring syrup to a boil. Lower heat and simmer approximately 15 minutes until syrup is slightly thickened. Remove cinnamon stick.

18 comments:

Happy cook said...

I think it is always wonderful to read about these traditions.
Thankyoiu fro a wonderufl read.

Reeni said...

What beautiful traditions! I love that children are so involved. My mouth is watering over the delicious recipes! YUM!! I am so glad you are back to blogging and feeling better after your absence last week! Hugs♥

RecipeGirl said...

I used to teach my students about Las Posadas when we taught 'Holidays around the World.' But I knew nothing about all of the wonderful food that was involved in the celebration!

ARLENE said...

The bread pudding sounds absolutely scrumptious. I love reading your stories, Teresa.

Foodycat said...

Have a lovely Christmas - blessings to your family!

Fabby's Cupcaker ;) said...

Tere

I love your blog!!! Te agradezco como mexicana que des a conocer la deliciosa comida que tenemos en nuestro país. I bought your book! pero aún no ha llegado. Amiga, te mando un abrazo y te deseo lo mejor en esta Navidad y que el año 2009 esté lleno de logros, de mucha salud y mucho amor para ti y toda tu familia.

Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo

Te quiero mucho!!!

Kelly said...

I love your sharing of traditions as always. I got your cookbook from the library the other day and am excited to start trying out the recipes. I'm also glad the library chose to buy it so others can discover it as well. I recognized the bread pudding you posted today from the cookbook. Yum. I hadn't heard of the cheese that was mentioned in the book, is it similar to the Jack cheese you call for her? I've never heard of cheese being used in bread pudding so this is an interesting twist.

Kelly said...

As a side question, how did you go about publishing the cookbook? I would be so curious about what the process was like.

Gloria Chadwick said...

Teresa, I FINALLY convinced my kids that we should have a traditional Mexican feast for Christmas! Tamales, rice, beans, enchiladas -- the whole works! (Of course, I have to cook it all, but I'm going to make them do the dishes.) I'll post pictures and recipes on my San Antonio blog.
Have a really wonderful Christmas, sweetie! :)

VG said...

Teresa

merry christmas to you and your family. May 2009 bring you joy, health and wealth. BTW, check out my mexican joke on my site (Weeweechu). I am sure you will appreciate it. I thought about you when I put it up. Take care and hugs and kisses from me, Vin from down under.

Maria said...

What a beautiful story and what scrumptious dishes. It all looks and sounds amazing. Happy holidays to you and your family Teresa!

Reeni said...

Merry Christmas Teresa! I hope all is well with you!

Tina (Mommy's Kitchen) said...

Feliz Navidad Teresa all your food looks beautiful. I hope you are enjoying the holiday sesaon. ((hugs))

Gloria Chadwick said...

Hi Teresa. Hope you're feeling okay. Want some coffee? There's a gift for you on my blog. :)

Ivy said...

I love reading about traditions. Happy Holidays and wishing you a happy new year. May all your dreams come true.

inspiredbites said...

I meant to comment on your post the other day, but then my computer jammed, and then I forgot to come back. I'm sorry!

Firt of all, I am totally going to use your recipes for the champurrado and the capirotada with one of my classes. They look scrumptious, and I owe one class a food party for raising money to help others during the holidays. It will be a nice reward, perhaps with churros or bunuelos.

Second, I want to wish you the happiest of new years! Much success and happiness in 2009, Tere!

Meryl

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