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December 2010

From the Editors

December 2010: A Month of Light and Joy

The procession on December 12 in honor of Mexico's own Virgin of Guadalupe is one of the largest of the year.

While every month at Lake Chapala is studded with celebrations, holidays and fiestas, there are two special nine-day December celebrations in Mexico, both honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus.

These two events are the nearest and dearest to the hearts of our Mexican neighbors. After all, when Mary appeared as Maria de Guadalupe to Juan Diego on a Mexican mountaintop in December 1531, she proclaimed herself as the mother of all Mexico, of all of the Americas, and of all of the Western Hemisphere.

The first of these novenas honors the Mary of that apparition—Mexico's beloved Virgin of Guadalupe.

December 3-12 — Nuestra Virgen de Guadalupe
The church that is located near Six Corners in Ajijic is dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe as is that neighborhood which also bears her name — el barrio de Guadalupe. Just days after the fiesta honoring Ajijic's patron, San Andrés another fiesta begins in the western part of the village (and in San Antonio Tlayacapan and in San Juan Cosalá, and in Chapala and in Jocotepec — and pretty much in every town and village.

Many of these smaller communities and neighborhoods towns bypass the full novena (nine days of prayer and thanksgiving, processions, music and fireworks) for a more traditional solution — daily Masses all nine days and the other festivities added during the last three days

(Left:) Churches, including Ajijic's San Andrés are filled with flowers, especially the Virgin's signature roses on December 12. (Right:) Homes and businesses show their love and loyalty to the Mother of Mexico with altars created at the sidewalk.

One of Ajijic's largest processions of the year travels from the parish church near the plaza to the Sanctuario de Nuestra Virgen de Guadalupe just past Six Corners late in the afternoon of December 12.

This procession is led by the image of Mother of Mexico, herself, and by dancers moving in time to a familiar drum beat that goes back to the time of the Aztecs. Hundreds of our neighbors follow the procession through town. This is a particularly picturesque event—even here in the land of daily "Kodak moments."

(Left:) Many of the small boys attending the procession are dressed to look like Juan Diego, the Aztec Christian farmer who encountered the virgin on a frigid mountain just north of Mexico City. (Right:) Little girls take on the look of small Mexican shepherdesses.

Just as in all processions, many of the participants walk in this pilgrimage to fulfill a manda (a promise) made when the participants prayed for a healthy recovery after surgery, the safe arrival of a new baby or the return of a loved one from their work in the United States.

In addition to attending the procession on December 12 (the participants leave the church near the plaza around 4:30 to walk to the western part of Ajijic and then back on Calle Constitución), plan to be at the Six Corners plaza between 10:30 and 11 p.m. for the burning of the castillo—the fixed fireworks piece. During the afternoon or between the procession and fireworks, drive through the streets of Chapala, San Antonio Tlayacapan, Ajijic and San Juan Cosalá to view the altars that are erected in front of many homes as residents offer their best for the virgin.

If you are connected to Telecable, the local cable service, you can begin your day of celebration for the Mother of Mexico by watching the spectacular night of programming ending with an 11 p.m. broadcast live from the Basilica of The Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 11. Most of Mexico's most famous singers join in this celebration of light to sing "Las Mañanitas" to the virgin at the stroke of midnight.

(Left:) This Christmas posada procession has arrived at the prearranged spot where Joseph and Mary's journey will end when as prescribed by tradition, the doors will open and a party will ensue. (Right:) On Christmas Eve, local residents portray the Christmas story — in a variety of locations. Here Joseph, Mary, the angel and the kings are in the northern Mexico city of Saltillo.

December 16-24 — Las Posadas: Looking for an Inn
The second of Mexico's nine-day December events are Las Posadas—a strolling demonstration of the Christmas story that unfolds on each of the nine nights before Christmas. This Mexican tradition dates to the years just after the arrival of the Franciscan missionaries who struggled to teach Christian stories to the indigenous residents—in spite of the language barrier.

They soon discovered that they could accomplish more by acting out the journey of Joseph and Mary to find a posada (an inn) with space for them to stay the night. You'll want to attend some of the area posadas, and to learn more about this charming custom, we have written three stories telling about different aspects of the tradition.

(Left:) You'll see many charming scenes during the December posadas. (Right:) Great-grandmas enjoy the excitement of the traditional posadas as much as do toddlers.

Holiday Cheer in this Issue
Not all of Lakeside's holiday cheer is taking place in the streets of Lake Chapala's villages. Here's a preview of the articles our Living at Lake Chapala writing team has prepared for you this month.

Living with Ten Virgins, Making New Traditions and Learning Mexico's Old Customs
Harriet Hart is doing double duty for this issue — she's written two pieces with a holiday theme. First up is her story that may help you see how foreigners living here become acquainted with the Virgin of Guadalupe and her sister Marys. Don't miss Harriet's report about living with Ten Virgins in our Homes and Lodging column. Then go with Harriet and her husband, Paul, as they reveal one of their new Christmas traditions in the Out and About slot.

Phyllis Rauch is also steeped in holiday tradition this month. You'll enjoy visiting with Phyllis and her late husband, Georg, as they search out the right Christmas tree for an Austrian and an American living in Mexico. Then, take a look at our December Feature Article. We've prepared a primer to guide foreigners through some of Mexico's favorite holiday events.

Los Cantantes' 2009 Central Mexico trip was studded with moments of contrast that personify Mexico. In Atotonilco, Guanajuato, villagers were delighted to hear the music the choir brought to their village. Note the Cantantes CD the woman is clutching.

Joining in Song, Leo the Tailor, Mixing and Matching Singles
We welcome Amy Friend to the team of Living at Lake Chapala writers. Amy is a long-time member of Lakeside's choral group, Los Cantantes del Lago, and is that group's publicity chairperson.

The 70 members of this international choir are all volunteers, but you won't believe it when you hear them perform. They don't just sing here at Lake Chapala, but have traveled Mexico and to several other countries, singing and sightseeing. No only will you want to read the Community piece, you'll want to dash out to buy tickets for the December 12 or 13 Christmas concerts.

What did Jim Tipton do when he needed a new sports coat? He didn't head down to the big and tall shop (there isn't one). He headed over to the home and shop of Chapala's Leo the Tailor. There in just a couple of weeks, the well-experienced tailor fashioned a new coat for Jim — actually he tailored it to fit Jim perfectly, even taking into account Jim's special body challenges. You won't believe the price for this very personal attention.

Blue is back this month with a fun-packed group some of you may want to join — the new Mix and Match Singles Group which is sponsored by the Lake Chapala Society. This is a assortment of singles who seem to be having a really good time — it doesn't matter what they are doing — and they are out and about doing a whole lot of fun activities. You singles can read more in the new Getting here column. It'll put a lot of your single concerns to rest.

The fountain at Chapala's main intersection takes on holiday color with a typical Mexican flair. Poinsettias, Mexico's native Christmas gift to the world are plentiful and inexpensive at Lakeside.

Cooking with Tequila, Tonalás Ceramics, and What to Take to the Hospital
Executive Chef Lorraine Russo of La Nueva Posada always does a great job, but wait until you see the recipes she's created so that you can begin cooking with tequila. Some of these dishes would be attention-grabbing additions to your Christmas or New Year's dinner table.

December can be filled with a frenzy of shopping and decorating, but when Carol Bowman headed to nearby Tonalá, she spent a calm, quiet day learning about the area's very traditional styles of pottery and ceramics. Where? At the Mexican National Ceramic Museum — right there in Tonalá. We know you'll enjoy this piece, and we're sure you'll learn a great deal as well — at least we did.

Admittedly between the celebrations of Hanukkah, the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Christmas and the rapidly approaching New Year, we have a lot of festivities to attend and enjoy. Still we can't prepare an issue for you without another article with some real hard-core information. So, don't miss this month's Health and Safety piece. As we promised, we're taking a good hard look at some tips to make a trip to the hospital easier and more comfortable.

That wraps up this, our 109th issue at the end of our ninth year of publication. As 2010 draws to a close, we're taking a look back at the fun we've had and the lessons we've learned — both in the issues of this magazine, and in life.

Here's hoping those lessons are leaving us all wiser, kinder, calmer and with more love in our hearts.

We'll see you right back here on January 1, bright-eyed and eager to make your plans for a New Year full of promise and opportunities come to pass.

Until then, Love, Light and Joy,

Judy King and the Living at Lake Chapala team


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