By Sergio Granillo
(Posted on the Parkdale United Church newsletter, The Messenger)
When Christmas is coming, people ask me ‘are you going home for Christmas?’ Well, I don’t have a clear answer for that. I was born in Mexico City, my family and I moved to a smaller town in 1985, Queretaro, where my mom lives… most time of the year. Then, I moved to Canada in 2005, and on November 30th I became a Canadian citizen; Toronto is my home now.
This Christmas came as a beautiful present from heaven, because I had the chance to get together with my family for the holidays, after a long year of isolation. I have been looking for a job for several months now; away from my family, because of the recent federal decision of imposing visa requirement to Mexicans who want to come to Canada.
The time was perfect, after a long wait, I got a notice to show up for the test of citizenship, I made it and four weeks later I got the results and the date for the oath ceremony. It was barely the right time-frame to get my Canadian passport to travel before Christmas. So, we bought the plane ticket.
We are a small family, my mother, my younger sister and I. After several years of living together, now we are split in three countries. My sister lives in Minnesota, she is married to a young American fellow, Luke, and now they are expecting their first child, my very first niece.
My mom, Teresa, spends most time of the year travelling from Mexico to the United States and Canada (before the visa). With the news of my sister’s pregnancy, she decided to spend several months prior to the child’s birth and in the first months afterwards in the States.
While I was packing I was feeling so weird, as if I had to go away from home in this special season, but I was happy knowing that I will meet with my family and that we will have a beautiful white Christmas in the very snowy Twin Cities.
The Bible says “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be”. In my case at least, I would say, where you and the people you love get together, that location at that time you can call it “home”.
The old traditions come to my mind. The Christmases past in Mexico, where 9 days before Christmas Eve we celebrate the ‘Posadas’, a daily recreation of the story of Mary and Joseph walking and searching for a place to stay. Transformed nowadays in a good reason to party, the ‘Posada’ has some interesting old rituals. People line up in the yard, holding small candles, walking in circles reciting an old Latin text (inherited from Catholic church), ‘Ora Pronobis’ (Pray for us).
Then a sort of theatrical performance will take place... The group splits in two, one comes inside the household, the other remains outside, usually holding small figures of the Nativity scene on a tray. It is time to ‘Pedir Posada’ (asking access to the inn), a singing exchange of short dialogues sang between the two groups. For Heaven sake, we ask you for a place to stay –one group sings. Who dares to come and bother so late at night? The other group replies. The Queen of Heaven… And it keeps going until the owner of the inn opens the doors and everybody sings: come in holly pilgrims. It is time to break piñatas! And give to everyone a hot ‘ponche’, a beverage made of the traditional fruits of the season, cinnamon, cane, tamarind and tejocote; and small baskets full of candies ‘la colación’!
For Mexicans, Christmas Eve is the most important party of the year, some kids expect presents from Santa Claus, and others prefer to think that the gifts come from the Holy Child. December 25th is mostly a very quiet day, usually it is the day of the hangover from the night before.
Here, I am in Minnesota, no Boxing Day, away from many of my friends, not singing in the choir in the service of Christmas Eve. I guess you can not have everything you want at the same time. I feel very blessed with the chance to be here with my family. Still not sure how to say it, I am not coming home for Christmas, but I am definitely with the people I want to be celebrating Christmas with. I hope next time we can all together celebrate it in my new home, Canada.