Caribbean Living

The Mexican Tradition of the Christmas Branch, alive and well through the Ages

When people come to Mexico and discover its cultural richness, its wonderful climate, and its amazing cost of living, many fall in love and don’t ever want to leave. That is why Mexico is the number one destination for US expats (by far). For today’s article, we focus on the cultural side of this incredible country. Particularly, we explore the tradition of the Christmas Branch, common in the region during the winter holidays.

christmas branch - rama navideña

The Tradition of the Christmas Branch

Originally from Veracruz, but also practiced in the Mexican Caribbean, Christmas Branch consists of decorating a tree branch with lanterns, paper chains, and other ornaments.

The Christmas branch has pre-Hispanic roots but managed to adapt to the Christian religion and created an interesting cultural fusion. As a consequence of this fusion, the decorations combine Afro-Mexican and Christian elements.

Once decorated, there is a ‘Procession of the Branch’, which usually happens before the National Holiday of the Virgen de Guadalupe (the greatest Saint in Mexican culture).

The origins of its meaning stem from the story of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary, seeking asylum in Bethlehem before Mary gave birth to Christ. In parallel to that story, Children do a symbolic pilgrimage singing a famous song.

The Branch Song

There is a famous song the Children sing, as they roam the streets asking for the ‘aguinaldo’. In turn, the ‘aguinaldo’ is a traditional tip given during the Christmas period, to both Children and workers.

As part of this song, there is a well-known chorus and a couple of stanzas. In addition, it is common that children will add witty rhymes or mischievous lines. The whole setting is accompanied by the traditional musical instruments of the region: the harp and the jarana.

Chorus in Spanish

Naranjas y limas,
limas y limones,
más linda es la virgen
que todas las flores”.

“En un porta lito de cálida arena,
nació Jesucristo
por la Noche Buena.”

“Venimos de lejos,
a traerte la Rama,
recíbela atento,
hoy y mañana”.

“A la media noche un gallo cantó,
y en su cantó dijo,
ya Cristo nació”.

“Denme mi aguinaldo,
si me lo han de dar,
que la noche es corta
y tenemos que andar”.

“Ya se va la Rama muy agradecida
porque en esta casa
fue bien recibida”.

Translated Chorus

Oranges and limes,
limes and lemons,
the Virgin transcends the beauty,
of any of the flowers.

In the warm sands of a stable,
Jesus Christ was born,
in the Holy Night.

We come from afar,
to bring you this Branch.
Take it with care,
today and tomorrow.

At midnight, a rooster crows,
In his song, he chants:
“Christ is born”.

Give me my aguinaldo,
if you have to,
for the night is short,
and we have yet to walk.

There goes, grateful, the Branch,
for in this home,
it was well received.”

The Christmas Branch in Playa del Carmen

Of course, the Christmas Branch tradition is alive and well in Playa del Carmen. In our city, the City Government is inviting local families (including expats) to create their own branches and submit them to a contest.

The rules are: decorate a dry branch you found (don’t harm a tree) and use recycled materials as ornaments.

The prize ceremony will be at a Christmas market on December the 8th. As many expats grow roots in Playa, this is a cute cultural activity for everyone to take part in.

This is the poster for the contest (in Spanish). If you are reading us from abroad, maybe you can participate next year!

This year's contest of the Christmas Branch in Playa del Carmen


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