M, 56, is from Mexico; he was born and raised in Tijuana but spent a great part of his youth in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. M has been living in Cabo for over 30 and has owned a clothing store there for just as long. He told me of a Christmas tradition he developed on his own in which he makes punch and hands it out to the people that visit his store.
I’m going to tell you about the punch that I make every year on December 24th, back home in Cabo San Lucas. Since the early 90s, I began the tradition of offering a drink, punch, which is a Mexican beverage. Every Christmas Eve from noon to nightfall, I give every customer that passes by my store a cup of freshly made hot punch. I do this because it is a Mexican tradition to make Christmas punch, but I also got this idea from my aunts in the U.S. that have a tradition of making apple cider and distributing it at winter holiday events. In Mexico, we don’t do apple cider, but we do have punch, which is similar enough. It is also a demonstration of gratitude and a marketing tactic for my customers. This punch is mostly made of tropical fruits, many of them endemic to Mexico. Some of the ingredients I use are guavas, apples, oranges, pears, sugar cane, tamarind, tejocotes, piloncillo, cinnamon, hibiscus, etc. To make this punch I use a 5–8-gallon pot and boil water, then I add all the ingredients and let it simmer for half an hour. Once all the fruit essence is infused, I add piloncillo to my liking to sweeten the punch. Then it is ready to serve. I know many cultures have their version of a hot fruity drink for the winter; America has apple cider and Europe has Vin Chaud or Gluhwein, but in Mexico we have punch, plus, it’s non-alcoholic. I think this tradition is tied up with many other environmental elements such as the decorations, the cheerfulness, the Christmas carols and music, and the smells; all together they make Christmas more like Christmas. I think the Christmas spirit is about generosity which is why it is so special to give things to people who don’t expect them.
This holiday tradition shows how a larger and more common tradition can be adopted and altered so it can be performed differently by various individuals. This tradition, even though it may appear a simple marketing strategy is more than that, it has been 30 years in the making; it is a ritual that remains unchanged for the most part after nearly three decades. This Christmas tradition is a way of sharing and giving back to a community as a token of appreciation; food and drinks are essential ways of engaging with a community, especially during a holiday that emphasizes the importance of generosity. It is folkloric because of its conception and ritualization; it was inspired by different influences and was coined to fit the needs and intentions of a specific person. This tradition is tied with many other elements to create a truly magical time that triggers nearly all the senses to ensure an emotive and compelling festivity such as Christmas.