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Nancy in Pátzcuaro

Ponche, or Mexican Christmas Punch

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We are hosting our neighbors for one night of the traditional posadas, and I'm going to make ponche (pronounced "pon-che"), among other things like a piñata and bags of candy for the kids (of all ages). I've looked at recipes online but I think my best option is to ask the people in the mercado for their advice. I know they sell all the ingredients, and I know there are things like long sticks of sugarcane, cut up fruit, jamaica flowers for color and flavor, cinnamon sticks, piloncillo, and so on. And there's always a guy at the posada walking around with a bottle of mezcal in case the ponche's not up to snuff. Even if it's good--he's there just in case.

 

I'm more confident about the piñata and the aguinaldos (candy bags), but I think I'll be able to figure out the ponche. This is one of the traditional elements of Christmas in México, along with tamales and atole on Christmas Eve or Chiles en Nogada in September to celebrate independence and Pan de Muertos for Noche de Muertos in November.

 

Our street is quite traditional, unlike others which put on a big noisy event with banks of speakers and loud music until the not-so-wee hours of the morning. So we'll walk from house to house, asking for a room for the night, until we get to our house and are invited in. There's a small representation of Mary and Joseph and the donkey that is carried around from house to house. In more affluent areas Mary and Joseph are young children and there's an actual donkey for her to ride on.

 

 

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Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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Wonderful traditions Thanks for sharing. I have no clue !   I think your instinct of asking local ladies is the best plan. Do let us know. Says the girl who had to look up the spelling of Feliz Navidad. I know the end of phrase is about New Year. My Michoacan gardener was happy with the sweets and my silly effort.

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My church always serves warm ponche and champurrado at the celebrations after services on Dec 12, the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  I've never tried it.  I always thought it would be very sweet but I should give it a try sometime. 

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I agree--she's clearly proud of her ponche. I especially loved at the end when she said that a little tequila or what they add in the countryside, "pikete," would be good. I'm not sure what that is--sounds dangerous! She was fearless while peeling and cutting the caña (sugar cane). I intend to buy it already peeled because I have less confidence in my knife skills than she has. There are huge amounts of sugar cane in the mercado, in 10-foot lengths, that are being sawn into smaller chunks on a table saw. Naturally there is plenty of protection for the operator (ha!).

 

Also in the mercado are generous amounts of forest moss (harvested locally) and mountains of Spanish moss, which are used to decorate a wood-framed creche populated by plastic animals and the Holy Family. And strings of twinkling lights have migrated south from the US. More and more of our neighbors have decorated their houses with lights. Given that electricity is expensive here, it's a good thing that someone invented LEDs!

 

Last night we attended a group posada, though it was a day early--they officially start tonight, on the 16th and go to the 24th. This was more than the usual posada, in that it included all parts of our colonia (larger than a neighborhood). There was a sound system blaring at top volume, tables and chairs in the street (blocking it, of course), and lots of food. Chicken tinga (my weakness), guacamole, vegetable salads, lots of ponche, soft drinks and something extra from various hip flasks (mezcal). Other neighbors, opting to have a more personal, definitely quieter, evening, built fires in the street and grouped chairs around them so folks could gossip and enjoy the evening. I saw a bottle of Johnny Walker Red being passed around to add to the ponche. Aguinaldos (bags of candy) were passed out to all comers, not just the kids, and then there was a piñata. The littlest kids go first, and it's really cute to watch them poke feebly at this thing bouncing around on the rope. Older kids get blindfolded and spun around 3 times before they're released to have a try. Sooner or later, after a lot of frustration and laughter, someone gives it a big enough whack to break it and the candy spills out. I always feel sorry for the kid who breaks it because by the time they realize it and take off the blindfold most of the candy has gone to the bystanders.

 

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Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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