Christmas in Mexico is a holiday experience that’s nothing short of pure magic. As we continue to look at Christmas traditions on different coasts around the world, Mexico unquestionably stands out as one of the most fascinating and deserving of a top spot on your must-see list. Immersed in the vibrant tapestry of Mexican culture, our shared experience of living in Mexico for several years has etched indelible memories of the enchanting holiday season.
Join us on a journey through the charming streets of Mexico as we unwrap the many meaningful layers of magic. From the lively markets to all the heartfelt traditions, we want to share our first hand appreciation. Christmas in Mexico is not just a holiday to observe; it is a whole experience, a lively fiesta of family, friends, and cultural richness. It truly transcends borders and brings people together in the true spirit of celebration. And living there, we became not just observers but active participants in this magical holiday festivities.
CHRISTMAS IN MEXICO LASTS ALL MONTH LONG
To start, one of the biggest reasons that Christmas in Mexico is extra special is that the celebration begins on December 12. Many other cultures are accustomed to family get-togethers on December 24th and 25th, but Mexican celebrations continue on to January 6, with an extra holiday on February 2.
As a matter of fact, the official kickoff to their holiday season is on December 12 and known as the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Catholics from all over make a pilgrimage to see a special image of Mary at the Basilica de Guadalupe. It is certainly a profound sight to witness.
The next event is known as Las Pastorelas. These traditional Mexican folk plays depict the shepherds’ journey to the star of Bethlehem to find the nativity. Some of these plays are performed with humor, and more serious ones show the obstacles that the shepherds faced from the Devil along their way. When they do find the Baby Jesus, this represents the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Live scenes can be experienced all over the country, and are all unique and meaningful.
NO ROOM AT THE INN
Following, Las Posadas starts on December 16 through Christmas Eve. In English, posada means lodging or an inn. This tradition represents Joseph and Mary seeking shelter as written in the Book of Luke in the Bible.
Uniquely, children dressed in white walk through neighborhoods going door to door singing and asking for shelter. They are turned away from many homes, until they reach a designated house. Each night, a different house holds a fiesta with lots of traditional music, food, drinks, and piñatas culminating with fireworks.
FAMILY, FOOD, AND FIREWORKS
Subsequently, those parties wrap up at midnight on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) when families attend a special mass before gathering for a feast. The mass is named the Misa de Gallo which translates to “Mass of the Rooster” because people will still be celebrating well into the next morning. Grand fireworks will explode all of Christmas Day and night.
CHRISTMAS IN MEXICO’S FLOWER
Let’s not forget that poinsettias, also known as the Nochebuena flowers, are native to Mexico. Beautiful and abundant, they have obviously become one of the most popular holiday decorations all around the world.
FOLLOW THE STAR
After the new year, El Dia de Reyes falls on January 6. This “Day of Kings” celebration commemorates the Three Wise Men visiting the Baby Jesus.
CHRISTMAS IN MEXICO – DESSERT INCLUDED
Once again, families come together to share a large meal and serve a Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Cake.) This is a sweet bread topped with fruits, nuts, and powdered sugar. Also, a plastic Baby Jesus is baked hidden inside. Whoever gets that hidden figurine will host the gathering on February 2. It took a few years, but I did eventually get the slice of cake with the Baby Jesus inside, much to the dismay of everyone else! This event is another example of how Mexico combines their festive traditions with religious significance of the Epiphany, and marks the end of Christmas in Mexico.
Finally, February 2 is La Candelaria, or The Candles, which brings more large parties. Certain areas of Mexico host large festivals, parades, and even bullfighting.
Another regional event, The Noche de las Rabanos or “Night of the Radishes,” is observed on December 23rd. In Oaxaca City, farmers carve locally grown radishes into wild animals, mythical creatures, and even the Virgin of Guadalupe to sell at the markets. These carvings are remarkable!
ALL THIS TALK ABOUT FEASTS…
Undoubtedly, the list of traditional dishes that make up Mexico’s Christmastime cuisine is way too long to cover, but there are a few that we must share.
In particular, there’s Ensalada Nochebuena or Christmas Eve Salad. This is made of seasonal vegetables, fruits, nuts, and a citrus dressing. Here’s the recipe to try this year!
Ensalada de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Salad)
Ingredients for Salad
- 2 lbs of naval oranges, peeled and diced
- 1 lb Jicama, peeled and diced
- 1/2 lb apples, cored and diced
- 1 lb beets
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
- Seeds from 1 pomegranate
- 5-6 cups Romaine lettuce leaves, torn
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- Salt to taste
Ingredients for Dressing
- 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 canned chipotle chile minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Next, clean the beets and remove any leafy stems, reserving for another use. Place the beets on a sheet of foil and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and then wrap the beets in the foil. Place foil-wrapped beets on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until you can easily stick a fork into the beets. Once cool, rub the beets with a paper towel to remove the skin. Slice the beets into half-moon shapes and place the sliced beets into a large bowl.
- Then, add to the beet bowl the diced oranges, jicama, apples, cilantro, peanuts, pomegranate seeds and Romaine lettuce. Toss until well combined.
- To make the dressing, start by whisking together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, orange juice and chipotle chile.
- Next, taste and add salt and black pepper.
- Finally, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
CHRISTMAS IN MEXICO STAPLE
Another traditional dish, Bacalao a la Vizcaina, is a stew-like dish made with dried salted cod fish. Although this dish started in Europe, it has become a staple for Mexican Christmas meals. It contains potatoes, onions, garlic, red peppers, and raisins.
HOMEMADE AND HEARTY
Furthermore, Pozole is a Mexican soup containing hominy, meat, chile peppers, garlic, salsa, radishes, avocado, and limes. Much like tiramisu in Italy, no two recipes are exactly alike – but all are delicious.
WHO DOESN’T WANT DESSERT?
Lastly, Bunuelos are a traditional Mexican Christmas dessert (and are my personal favorite.) These are crispy fried pastries sprinkled with cinnamon shaped in a ball or flat, and often topped with hot sugary syrup.
BY THE PUNCH BOWL
In addition, there are a couple of bebidas, or beverages, for the holiday season, too. Ponche Navideño is a warm punch made with fruit. (Simmer a variety of fruits, raisins, water, cane sugar, star anise and a bit of cinnamon on the stove – and enjoy!)
ADULTS ONLY PONCHE BOWL
For adults, there’s Rompope, similar to our eggnog and has Rum added.
IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR
Although there are decorated Christmas trees and appearances by Santa Claus, most of Mexico’s holiday traditions are firmly rooted in the Spanish and indigenous culture. As the season begins, Mexico transforms into a tapestry of cultural richness, blending their ancient customs with modern festivities.
Of all the incredible aspects we experienced while living in Mexico, the holiday season is near and dear to us. Considering the many cultural traditions such as the lively posadas, the vibrant colors on every corner, and the amazingly flavorful feasts and fireworks, magical Mexico should be one of your bucket list destinations for a holiday season in the future.
Follow along on our 12 Days of Christmas Journeys
Mexico – Day 2 (This Post)