Christmas in Mexico – The Nativities
Mexicans are fans of life-size nativities: they can be found everywhere, in churches, but also in the streets. There are also live nativity scenes, embodied by performers during the week before Christmas. In much of Latin America pastorelas ("shepherd's plays") are performed in many local communities. These plays were imported during Spanish colonization of the Americas.
Parades are also held and costumed children are organized, in order to commemorate the wandering of Joseph and Mary towards Bethlehem. The tradition is to knock on the doors of the neighborhood asking for asylum for the night: the one who opens then offers food and treats to the members of the parade.
The nativity, as legend states, was that Francis of Assisi created them in Greccio, Italy, on Christmas night 1223.
The first living nativity scene was held. Though these scenes were already played for several centuries by actors for the Nativity in churches and then on their own in courts. But without any real historical certainty it is uncertain if Francis of Assisi actually started the tradition. As the story goes he was impressed by his visit to the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and wanted to reproduce the scene of the Nativity when it became inaccessible to pilgrims following the failure of the Fifth Crusade. To do this, he used a crib or creche filled with real hay, live animals, and he he held it in a cave in the region where the miners had established the hermitage of Greccio clinging to the side of the mountain, with the cooperation of the lord of the village in Greccio when they celebrated Midnight Mass.