While riding the public bus past a church in Cancun, Mexican passengers make a relaxed fist gesturing the sign of the cross and then kiss their thumb as a sign of respect for the church. With a strong Catholic influence inherited from Spain, Mexico is alive with religious traditions. If the idea of Christmas in Mexico doesn’t ring any bells, listen closely to the Christmas bells ringing loud and clear. Rich in traditional festivities, a Mexican Christmas is filled with wonder.
In other countries, the 12 Days of Christmas are recognized, but in Mexico, the nine days of posadasleading up to Christmas Eve − Noche Buena (Holy Night) − are observed. The Christmas holiday in Mexico continues through January 6th, which is El Dia de los Reyes (day of the kings or the wise men). Traditionally, this is the day Mexican children received their gifts, but with growing international influence, they sometimes receive gifts on both Christmas Day and Dia de los Reyes.
Christmas in Mexico is a religious holiday, honoring the ‘nativity’ or birth of the savior. As part of the Christmas celebration, traditional fiestas called Mexican posadas (inns) are held for family, friends, and neighbors. A posada is the reenactment of the Census pilgrimage to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph (los peregrinos) in search of a room. From December 16th through December 24th, Mexican families customarily hold a posada party one evening in each of their homes.
During the reenactment, the posada hosts act as the inn keepers while their guests act as the pilgrims (losperegrinos). Holding lighted candles, each group takes turns singing verses to each other, for example:
“Mi nombre es José,
Mi esposa es María.
y madre va ser,
del Divino Verbo.”
“My name is Joseph,
My wife is Mary.
and mother to be
of the Divine Word.”
(Inn keepers, inside)
“Posada os brindo,
y disculpa os pido,
no os reconocía.”
“The inn I give you,
and offer an apology,
for not recognizing you.”
Then the inn keeper hosts open the door and welcome the pilgrims inside.
Although primarily a religious holiday including attendance at Christmas Eve mass (Misa de Aguinaldo or Misa de Gallo), Mexican holidays always offer an opportunity to enjoy a fiesta in true Mexican fashion.
Posada parties are not only marked by traditional rituals but are also filled with cheerful socializing, authentic food, and fun for the entire family, including a special Christmas drink and a piñata filled with candy.
Provided not only at Christmas but at birthdays and other celebrations, traditional Mexican piñatas are designed in the shape of a seven-point star; created with cardboard and paper mache; and decorated with crepe paper.
The seven points represent the seven deadly sins that need to be destroyed by the ‘sinner’ who is blindfolded (signifying blind faith). Hoping to conquer sin, he attempts to hit the swaying piñata with a stick and break open the center, which bestows him with ‘blessings’ (candy).
As each person takes turns swinging at the piñata, onlookers sing an encouraging verse:
“Dale, dale, dale; no pierdas el tino,
porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino.”
“Hit it, hit it, hit it; don’t miss the shot,
Because if you miss it, you’ll lose the way.”
Once the piñata is broken and the falling candy has been collected, family, friends, and neighbors return inside to eat, drink, and be merry, indulging in a Christmas Mexican drink called Ponche con Piquete (sting), a delicious, hot fruit punch containing a spicy blend of seasonal fruits, cinnamon, and a shot of brandy or rum. Mexico even has its own Christmas cerveza (beer) called Noche Buena available during the holiday season.
It has been said that this delightful beer contains traces of chocolate. So lift a glass of Ponche or raise a bottle of Noche Buena, and toast:
Come spend a Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) in the Riviera Maya! Click here.
Planning on celebrating Cinco de Mayo? Might be easier to find a party in the United States.
Cinco de Mayo celebrations have gained popularity throughout U.S. cities like Los Angeles, Denver and Phoenix, among others, all of which hold festivals and street fairs aimed at celebrating Mexican culture.
The thing is, Cinco de Mayo has actually become a bigger deal in the United States than it is in Mexico.
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo –- which means "May Fifth" in Spanish -- is not Mexico’s independence day. The holiday commemorates the battle of Puebla in 1862 where Mexican troops defeated French troops, although ultimately Mexico was defeated in the war.
Puebla is actually one of the few places in Mexico where Cinco de Mayo is truly celebrated. Most other cities just treat it like a normal day -- no celebrations, no mariachis, no parades.
Here are 5 Holidays that are actually celebrated all over Mexico:
Day of the Dead
A popular holiday all over Latin America and the United States, the Day of the Dead has both indigenous origins from the Aztec festival for Mictecacihuatl, The Lady of The Dead, and Catholic origins from the Spanish conquistadors’ All Saints and All Souls Day. People all over Mexico celebrate on November 1st and 2nd by putting up altars honoring the dead and visiting their graves with offerings.
Benito Juárez Day
Commemorated on the third Monday in March, this holiday celebrates Benito Juárez, President of Mexico from 1857 to 1872. He was the first indigenous man to hold the country's highest political office. Juárez is considered a national hero as he resisted the French occupation, led the country into the modern world and restored the republic. On Benito Juárez Day, most businesses close and many travel for the long weekend. Political events and celebrations take place across the country, including in San Pablo Guelatao, Juarez’s hometown.
Mexico’s independence day is celebrated on Sept. 16th in honor of the country’s independence from Spanish rule in 1810. Also known as El Grito de La Independencia (The Cry of Independence) this holiday is one of the biggest celebrations throughout Mexico, comparable to the 4th of July in the United States. People gather in the town squares to see fireworks, dance and watch parades. Some cities mark the occasion with bullfights.
This public holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of November and it commemorates the Mexican Revolution, which started in 1910 against President Porfirio Diaz and lasted until 1920. There are celebrations and parades throughout Mexico and most businesses and schools close.
Day of the Virgen Of Guadalupe
The day of the Virgen de Guadalupe became a national holiday in Mexico in 1859. People from all over Mexico gather each year on Dec. 12 at Mexico City's Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe to celebrate the patron saint's birthday. Thousands gather around the Basilica and bring candles and offerings to honor her and they sing the famed "Las Mañanitas."