A special meal

A message from Life co-author, Helen Stephenson

I love trying different food when I travel. But I also love eating with other people. I’m very lucky because I have eaten some fantastic home-made food in several countries. I remember family picnics on the beach every 1st January. It was a geat start to each new year.

Milpa Alta is a region to the south of Mexico City. It has a famous volcano – Teuhtli – and twelve villages and towns. Milpa Alta is also famous for a traditional meal every Christmas, called La Rejunta. The meal is part of the Christmas celebrations and it feeds huge numbers of people. The cooks make about sixty thousand tamales. Tamales are made from corn and have different fillings. They also make about fifteen thousand litres of hot chocolate. They make all of this food and drink in less than one week. The meal is one of the activities for people who go on a walk to the cave of El Señor de Chalma. It’s an important place for people from the region at Christmas. The cave is about eighty kilometres away and the walk begins on the 3rd of January. About 20,000 people go on the walk each year. That's 20,000 hungry people!

Every year, the organisers of the meal change. This year, Virginia Meza Torres and her husband Fermín Lara Jiménez are the organisers, or majordomos. They waited for 14 years to do this. Lots of people want to organise the meal because it’s a very important tradition. They put their names on a list. At the moment, the list has names for every year until 2046.

The preparation for the meal takes a whole year. At the start of the year, men collect wood from the forest. They store it near the home of the majordomos so that it will be dry and ready to use. The wood burns in the fires that they use to cook the food. The farmers in the area grow the ingredients for the meal, such as corn, meat and vegetables. Everything is natural; there’s no ready-made food. Lots of volunteers help to cook and serve the meal.

Tradition is very important to the people of Milpa Alta, and one of the most important activities is eating together. One woman, Josefina García Jiménez, says that sitting together at the table shows love to your family. Everybody stays at the table after the meal finishes and they talk, tell stories and laugh together. At Christmas, La Rejunta is like a huge family meal.

corn (n) a plant you can eat


cave (n) a very big hole in the side of a mountain or under the ground
filling (n) the food that is inside a sandwich or cake, for example
huge (adj) very big
ingredient (n) one of the different types of food you need to make a dish
list (n) names, numbers, or items written one below another
preparation (n) the process of making something ready to happen in the future
region (n) a part of a country
tradition (n) something that people have done for a long time as part of their culture or way of life
volunteer (n) someone who does a job because they want to and without being paid
walk (n) a journey you make on foot, usually for a pleasure

Listen to a recording of the text: 

Reading comprehension: 

Read the article and choose the correct option.

1. What is the article about?
a special tradition
a town in Mexico
farmers in Milpa Alta

2. What is La Rejunta?
a meal
a person
a place

Read the article again and choose the correct option.

3. Where is Milpa Alta?
in Mexico
in Mexico City
near Mexico

4. Which sentence is true?
People eat for a week at La Rejunta.
Twenty thousand people go to El Señor de Chalma.
People take their own food to La Rejunta.

5. At La Rejunta ...
there's food but no drink.
there's food and drink.
there's drink but no food.

6. Which sentence is true?
Virginia and Fermin are majordomos for the first time.
Virginia and Fermin got married 14 years ago.
Virginia and Fermin organise La Rejunta every year.

7. What do majordomos do?
cook the tamales
organise La Rejunta
pay for the food

8. Which sentence is true?
Only men prepare the food.
Some of the food comes from shops.
They cook the food on wood fires.

9. Which sentence is true?
Eating together is a tradition in Milpa Alta.
Josefina García Jiménez says her family loves her cooking.
Josefina García Jiménez’s family only eats together at Christmas.