Christmas is a holiday rich in tradition and is celebrated differently all over the world. However, when most people think about Christmas, the image that comes to mind is the European and North American concept of it, with Christmas trees and Santa and mistletoes. It is easy to forget that different cultures mark Christmas differently.
Take Mexico, for instance. Christmas in Mexico is very different from Christmas in the USA. Mexican Christmas draws heavy inspiration from Spanish and local traditions, and the result is something entirely different and completely beautiful. Here are a few highlights of the main traditions held by people in Mexico’s capital, Mexico City. This article highlights Mexico City because some of this traditions and the ways people mark them vary from region to region in Mexico, with some being heavily influenced by other cultures, such as the Western concept of Christmas. To get the full experience of traditional holidays you need to walk around Mexico, there are many free walking tours in Mexico City that can give you the full experience.
1. The Celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe
Christmas in Mexico starts on December 3rd and goes on all the way to February 2nd. That makes it an entire season, as opposed to being a single day like in many countries. The celebrations begin on December 3rd with the start of the novenas to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico, and is a huge symbol in Mexico, playing a role in both the political and religious history of the country.
The novenas go on for 9 days till December 12th. On that day, the feast day of the virgin is held. It is marked to commemorate the fourth time the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in 1474. It is common to hear the traditional “Las Mananitas” song in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe on this day.
2. Las Posadas
From December 16th to Christmas Eve, the season of Las Posadas is held. Posadas are processions that are held to celebrate Christmas and can be in various forms. You can see the traditional processions of children with candles going around neighborhoods with their friends and family as they sing to reenact how Mary and Joseph tried to find a place to stay in Nazareth. These processions approach houses and request “shelter”, and they may be “rejected” from a couple of houses before being accepted in the third house, or they may split into two groups and reenact the parts of the innkeeper and the blessed family. The houses they get admitted to usually have parties with food and drink and piñatas for the kids.
3. Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve is marked on December 24th and is locally known as Nochebuena. Families attend mass then go home to have late night feasts. No gifts are exchanged at this time.
4. Christmas Day
On December 25th, La Navidad is celebrated. On this day, families spend quiet time together and talk about the bigger Noche Buena celebration that happened the day before.
5. Day of the Sainted Innocents
On December 28th, Mexicans mark the Day of the Sainted Innocents, known as Dia de Los Santos Inocentes. This is a commemoration of the day King Herod ordered the killing of newborns in Bethlehem. It is marked by playing practical jokes on each other, like April Fool’s Day.
6. New Years
New Year’s Eve is celebrated on December 31st while New Years Day is celebrated on January 1st. On New Year’s Eve, you are supposed to eat 12 grapes quickly at midnight for good luck on each of the 12 months of the coming year. Parties, fireworks, and feasting happen on New Years Day just like in other parts of the world.
7. Three Kings Day
On January 6th, the Day of The Three Kings is celebrated. Known as Dia de Los Tres Reyes Magos, it marks the visit of the three kings to newborn baby Jesus. People usually exchange gifts on this day, along with having religious celebrations and spending time with loved ones.
For food, tamales, atole, and Rosca are cooked. It is around fruit cake with a little baby Jesus figurine inside. Whoever finds the figurine pays for the tamales and atole.
On February 2nd, the last day of the Mexican Christmas is celebrated. People take their baby Jesus figurines to church to receive blessings.
Mexico City is a great place to spend a Christmas season full of culture, tradition and good food. To take your experience to the next level, consider hiring the services of a tour guide. It is the best way to see the city from a new perspective and experience the richest aspects of Mexican tradition.