For many people around the world, the Christmas Season heralds the beginning of holiday music, snowball fights, and ugly sweaters. The idea of a wonderful Christmastime conjures images of skating, hot chocolate, and Santa Claus. But in Mexico, the Christmas season doesn’t necessarily adhere to all the Euro Western traditions or call to mind the same mental snapshots. In addition to having a much warmer climate with almost no opportunity for snow-based activities, Mexico also has its own Mexican Christmas traditions that people celebrate every year. So especially if you are planning a trip to Mexico for your winter vacation, you are probably wondering, “how does Mexico celebrate Christmas differently from other countries?”
Christmas in Mexico is one of the most magical times of the year. Because it is largely a Catholic country, Christmas in Mexico is deeply tied to the holiday’s religious roots. From the 16th to the 24th of December, churches and communities will host what are called Posadas Navidenas every day with culminating celebrations on Christmas eve. The posadas usually entail a procession of people with candles to symbolize Joseph and Mary’s journey in search of shelter in the nativity story. These Mexican Christmas traditions include songs, children in costume, reenactments of the biblical story, and end in a party hosted by a different house each night.
A popular game played at the Mexican celebrations leading up to Christmas Day are the iconic symbols of Mexican culture - pinatas. Breaking open the seven-pointed star pinatas is an essential part of Mexican Christmas traditions, as the star represents the star of Bethlehem and its points represent the seven sins from Christian teachings. Pinatas can be seen at most community parties and festival events in December with everyone participating - from the youngest to the oldest family members.
Other Mexican Christmas traditions include elaborate nativity scenes (nacimientos, in Spanish), the display of poinsettia flowers, which are native to the country, and fireworks. In some parts of Mexico, children will receive presents on January 6th, known as el Dia de los Reyes, delivered by the Three Kings (or magi). Santa Claus and Christmas trees are becoming slightly more popular, but for the most part Christmas in Mexico stays true to its Spanish colonial and indigenous origins.
Traditional food and drink are the cornerstone of all Mexican celebrations, and Christmas is no different. At Christmas posadas, you will be sure to find everyone feasting on tamales, churros, pozole, and other traditional Mexican dishes. Ponche navideno, meaning holiday punch, is the most important drink of the Christmas season in Mexico. The punch is made of fruits, spices, sugar, and water, and, similar to hot apple cider, it is served on a cool evening to warm the bellies with its delicious flavors.
If you are in Mexico for the holidays, you might be wondering what festival events you can attend while you are on your vacation. Because winter is the high season in Mexico, this is usually the time of year when markets pop up on a weekly basis. Check online to find public farmers markets, arts and crafts bazaars, and Christmas markets around your vacation destination. Other events include the Dia de Guadalupe on December 12th, which is a religious event that really initiates the beginning of the holiday season in Mexico. On this day Catholic Mexicans pay homage to the Virgin of Guadalupe by bringing gifts and offerings at vigils held across the country. In some destinations, you’ll even see pilgrimages and parades that culminate at the main church in town.
How does Mexico celebrate Christmas without snow you ask? Well, while you won’t be able to ski or snowboard in Mexico, winter is the high season and the best time for activities such as surfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling due to the dry climate conditions and the idyllic temperatures. So especially if you are someone that prefers a tropical climate, your idea of a wonderful Christmastime might be better spent on the beaches of Mexico under blue skies.