Decorating for the Holidays: Southwest Style

The holiday season is upon us, and it's time to decorate!

One of the most beautiful aspects of Arizona is the influence that Mexican culture has on our everyday life. With the holiday season upon us, it comes as no surprise that our holiday decorations carry on that influence. 

If you’re searching for traditional decorations with rich history, look no further than Zocalo. Owned by mother-daughter duo Jan Westenborg and Jill D’Aniello, Zocalo houses a beautiful collection of holiday items sourced directly from artisans in Mexico.

They purchased Zocalo in 2018 in order to showcase traditional Mexican folk art directly from its source. Her love of Mexican culture stems from her experience studying abroad, and she frequently travels to Mexico in search of new artists and artwork.

“She has such a passion for the people and the culture,” D’Aniello, her daughter, said.

Westenborg shared the cultural significance of their most commonly sought-after holiday decorations. 

One of their most popular holiday items are the ornate tin-punch Christmas trees. Originally produced in San Miguel de Allende, Zocalo has the largest selection in Arizona. The trees are lit from within, allowing the handcrafted designs and colored marbles to shine.

Catholicism is the dominant faith in Mexico, and Nativity scenes in a variety of artistic styles are easily found. The religious aspect of Christmas stems from the Nativity, which depicts the birth of Jesus in the manger. From small scenes in shadow boxes to an award-winning clay set from the state of Veracruz, the Nativity scene in all its forms is a frequently sought-after item. 

Hanging chile peppers is another sign that the holiday season is approaching, and another frequently seen decoration. Chile peppers are traditionally gathered in Mexico during the onset of the winter months, and the bountiful harvest on display has evolved into another recognizable decoration for the holidays. A modern twist on this tradition is to hang chile-shaped string lights!

What Zocalo is most known for, however, are its poinsettias. These red (and white, and pink!) flowers were brought to America in the 19th century by Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. Minister of Mexico, according to Westenborg. She estimates they grow around 25,000 poinsettias for the holiday season, which are in full bloom and ready to purchase. Poinsettias, called La Flor de Nochebuena in Mexico, are a symbol of success and good cheer.

Westenborg and D’Aniello’s appreciation for Mexican culture is evident in the level of care they take in sourcing authentic pieces directly from the place these traditions originate. Each creation is tagged with the location in Mexico that it comes from, as well as the artist who produces it. 

Zocalo is offering a free Christmas cactus with a $50 purchase, another item traditionally given as a gift during the holidays.

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