Christmas celebrations in Mexico are influenced by their Catholic heritage as well as festive indigenous traditions. Mexicans love to party and this festivity is no exception. It starts on December 3rd and ends on January 6th. So if you are planning on spending your Christmas holidays in Mexico, here is a description of how and when they are celebrated:
Important dates during the Mexican Christmas season:
- December 3rd: Start of the novenas to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe
- December 12th: Feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Patron Saint)
- December 16th–24th: Las Posadas
- December 24th: Christmas Eve (Nochebuena)
- December 25th: Christmas Day (Navidad)
- December 28th: Day of the Sainted Innocents (Día de los Santos Inocentes, similar to April fool’s day)
- January 6th: King’s Day (Día de Reyes )
Novenas: Is the tradition of devotional private or public catholic prayers repeated for nine successive days.
Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe: Is celebrated at the end of the novenas on December 12th and it is a National Holiday. The feast celebrates the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, a devout indigenous boy. Millions of people are involved in processions and massive pilgrimages.
Posadas: Commemorating Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to give birth to baby Jesus. Each night a different house holds the Posada party and on Christmas Eve the final posada takes place and baby Jesus is placed in a manger surrounded by angels, shepherds, animals and the three kings, culminating the day with a midnight church service. Many hotels hold a Posada for all the staff.
Christmas Eve: Celebrated with a fantastic Christmas meal on December 24th, the night of the last posada. The most popular dishes are Bacalao (salt cod), Romeritos (Mexican herb prepared with mole and shrimp), roasted pork or turkey and tamales. Hot fruit punch is served to accompany dinner as well as Buñuelos for dessert (fried thin pastries sprinkled with refined sugar and cinnamon).
Christmas Day: On December 25th families unite to continue celebrating the birth of Jesus and the days of eating “recalentado” (reheated meals) start, where families will eat what was left from the dinner the night before until everything is gone; creative recipes are invented.
Día de los Santos Inocentes: Celebrated on December 28th, the day when King Herod ordered the killing of all newborn boys in Bethlehem. This day is similar to April fool’s day where everybody, including newspapers and TV programs play practical jokes and tricks. Nothing is to be taken seriously on this day.
Día de Reyes: It takes place on the 6th of January. Children in Mexico usually receive clothes on Christmas day as gifts, and toys on “Día de Reyes”, commemorating the date when the wise men brought gifts to the Christ child. The “Rosca de Reyes” is a typical sweet fruit bread baked in the shape of a rectangle and has small plastic figurines of baby Jesus hidden inside. Whoever finds one has to host a meal of tamales for everybody on February 2nd, Día de la Candelaria.
In Mexico, Christmas is not just a single day, but a whole season of Christmas-related celebrations.