Lakeside Guide to Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Mexico


At a Glance

Christmas in Mexico is about family, friends & traditions like Las Posadas, which are 400 years old.

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Christmas in Mexico centers around family and friends in a way that it often doesn’t north of the border.

There are no sleigh rides or cranberry sauce, and Santa Claus is still a relatively foreign concept here, but Mexico has its own important traditions that it celebrates every Christmas.

When Are The Christmas Posadas in Ajijic?

One of these traditions, now 400 years old, is the Christmas Posadas, which happens every evening from December 16-24. They represent the biblical scene when Joseph and Mary seek shelter at the inn in Bethlehem on the eve of Jesus’ birth.

Kids and their parents gather at 5 p.m. in Ajijic’s central plaza and then walk a few blocks to a certain house, which is different each evening.

Another group waits at the house and refuses entry to the approaching procession and for a few minutes, the two groups alternate verses of a song to pedir (ask for) posada. Then the house doors are opened and the hosts give out food, punch, gift bags and other regalitos like balls.

After that, it’s time to bring out the piñatas, usually at least three. More than just a glittery plaything filled with candy, the traditional seven-pointed piñata actually symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and the candy inside represents the temptation against earthly pleasures.

Check out this short video of some kids beating up on poor Santa during a posada in 2018:

La Noche Buena

People do most of the celebrating on Christmas Eve, which is known as la Noche Buena — the Good Night.

A church service happens at 7 p.m. in Church San Andrés, where outside there has been a 30-year-old tradition of living nativity scenes. This tradition recently stopped for a couple years before starting up again, but since then there are only a few nativity scenes each year.

La Noche Buena is an all-night family affair that lasts until 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the morning. Some families spend it inside the house; some block the road off in front and set up chairs and tables to eat dinner in the middle of the street.

It’s common to wait until midnight to eat dinner on Christmas Eve, which stems from an old belief that it’s necessary to fast on December 24. (Some restaurants are open for dinner on Christmas Eve but plan ahead as you will need reservations.)

Christmas Eve is a noisy night with music and lots of kids shooting off fireworks. People often make bonfires in the street and sit outside until dawn.

Christmas Day

Compared to the day before, Christmas day is relatively low-key. Almost all restaurants and shops are closed on Christmas. If you need some Christmas tacos for dinner, check out Tacos El Cholo, which is always open for dinner on Christmas and Christmas Eve.

Some businesses remain closed from Christmas until as much as a week after New Year’s.

The tradition of gift-giving and Santa Claus is still new here. Gifts are traditionally given to children on Three King’s Day on January 6, but some families will exchange gifts on both holidays.

Last updated January 5, 2019

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Photos of Christmas

Las Posadas

Kids and their parents meet every evening at 5 p.m. in the Ajijic plaza for the Christmas posadas. This woman rehearses a song with the children to pedir (ask for) posada before they start.

Everyone walks a few blocks while reciting the song and banging on tambourines.

The tradition of the posadas is 400 years old but has even older origins with the Aztecs.

A father takes part in a posada with his daughters.

After a couple blocks, the group reaches the house designated as the "inn." The word "posada" means "inn."

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Dance of the Niño Dormido

Dance of the Sleeping Child

A father & daughter perform an ancient dance from Mexico’s southernmost state, Chiapas.

Purchase This Fine Art Print
Purchase This Fine Art Print

The group outside sings to pedir posada to a group that's inside the house. The group inside sings back.

The singing goes on for a few minutes until the doors are opened and everyone sees each other.

After being given lodging, the kids are given a gift bag or toys such as balls.

Ponche navideño (Christmas punch), made from guavas, oranges, apples and other fruits, is a popular drink consumed during the Christmas season in Mexico.

Kids who are designated as shepherds carry colorful shepherd's crooks during the posadas.

An altar for friends and family members, including a teenager, made by his grandmother, Beatriz.

Deciphering the Meaning Behind the Day of the Dead Altar

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See this Photo Essay

After the regalitos (little gifts) are given out, it's time to get the piñatas out.

The piñatas, of course, are always the kids' favorite part of the posadas.

The piñata, like so many modern Mexican traditions, has Pre-Columbian origins, which the Spanish coopted in their drive to conquer and convert Mexico's indigenous people into Catholics.

The small kids go without a blindfold.

A boy hits a Santa piñata in Ajijic during the Christmas posadas.

Boys fight over the scraps from a destroyed piñata.

More fighting. Boys fight over the remains of piñatas as they do with the fallen parts of a fireworks castle during the town's Fiestas de San Andrés.

All the kids at one of Ajijic's posadas.

A Christmas posada for a restaurant's employees, family, and customers. Sometimes a company, school class or group will hold a "posada," which in the end is basically a Christmas party.

A boy hits a piñata during a Christmas posada in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Escaramuza Sombrero

Escaramuza Sombrero

An escaramuza cowgirl on Independence Day in Mexico.

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Purchase This Fine Art Print

Christmas Day

A nacimiento (nativity scene) is always set up at the quiosco (kiosk) in Ajijic's central plaza.

A church service starts at 7 p.m. and there are often living nativity scenes outside in the church atrium.

Inside the Christmas mass at Church San Andrés in Ajijic.

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