10 Mexican Christmas Traditions You Probably Didn’t Know
While you may recognise a number of Western Christmas characters such as Santa Claus and Christmas trees at a Mexican Christmas celebration, the country’s rich Spanish history sees the festive period take on a much more traditional flavour throughout their full month (yes, an entire month!) of celebrations.
Here are 10 Mexican Christmas traditions you may not have had the pleasure of experiencing:
1 // Mexico kicks off their Christmas celebration on 12 December with the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Dia de la Virgin de Guadalupe). On this day, pilgrims travel from across the country to the Basilica of Guadalupe to visit The Virgin Mary. After the pilgrimage, celebrations begin with parades filling the streets, live music and fireworks! You’ll also find street vendors selling traditional buñuelos (think the most delicious donuts).
2 // From 16 to 24 December, you’ll find children walking from home to home singing and asking for shelter as part of Las Posadas. A direct translation for an inn, the 9 day tradition represents Mary and Joseph searching for shelter throughout Mary’s 9 months of pregnancy. Every night of Las Posadas, a different family holds a party filled with traditional food, drinks, music, piñatas and fireworks.
3 // On December 23, Oaxaca City has their own unique celebration of the Night of the Radishes which involves coming together for a locally grown radish carving competition where you’ll find elaborate figurines, wild animals, the Virgin of Guadelupe, and mythical creatures.
4 // Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) is the main event across Mexico, marking the end of Las Posadas with a main Christmas feast. At midnight, many families will attend the Mass of the Rooster which is followed by fireworks to celebrate the start of Christmas Day.
5 // The highlight for children on Christmas Eve is generally the breaking of piñatas; balls with seven spikes that have a much deeper meaning. To begin with, covering the eyes of the person hitting the piñata represents blind faith. Next, the stick you’re hitting it with represents virtue and finally, the lollies inside are a sweet reward for faith in God.
6 // On Christmas Eve, you’ll see Pozole served around the table. Pozole is a thick soup made with hominy, chicken or pork and chilis topped with greens. This will be served alongside Ensalada Nochebuena (Christmas Eve Salad) which is a salad made with seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts and citrus dressing. Following main course, you’ll see traditional Bunuelos for dessert (yes, more donuts!)
7 // On Christmas Day, families continue feasting but generally too tired to do much else!
8 // The Day of Holy Innocents is celebrated around the country on December 28 in honour of the babies King Herod ordered to be killed in his attempt to kill Baby Jesus. Similar to April Fool’s, this Mexican tradition includes telling people bold-faced lies, representing the trickery of the innocent.
9 // Mexican New Year traditions see one custom of eating a grape at each toll of midnight (12 in total) which is apparently harder than it sounds.
10 // 6 January is seen as the Day of the Kings (Dia de Los Reyes) where families and friends gather to celebrate and share a wreath-shaped King’s cake. A Baby Jesus figure will be baked into the cake and as the wreath is shared around, the person who gets the piece with the Baby Jesus figure inside has to invite everyone present to a Candlemas party and buy the tamales for that party.
While Australia may not have the Christmas traditions that Mexico has, we love making our own traditions as a family and will be incorporating some of these into our Christmas celebrations. Stay tuned for future journals as we try out some of Mexico’s traditional recipes!
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