Everything About Mexican Christmas Traditions
If you love the Mexican Día de Muertos, we are sure that Mexican Christmas traditions and celebrations will also fascinate you.
Like any country, Mexico is full of culture, traditions, and customs passed down from generation to generation.
Christmas in this Latin American country is a mix of religious and commercial festivities and family customs.
For Mexicans, it’s an important season because it brings moments of happiness and family unity, essential characteristics of Latin culture.
In addition, Mexico is a country with a deep-rooted religious tradition. So there are also many activities and celebrations in which families come together to worship the birth of Jesus and what that means for Catholics.
So, if you’re an enthusiast of cultures other than your own, you love Christmas, and would like to understand the unique traditions of Mexico at this time of year, keep reading!
Get ready to read a rich guide to Mexican culture and traditions during December.
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How Do People Celebrate Christmas in Mexico?
Christmas in Mexico resulted from the union between the Spanish empire and the ancient Mexican cultures and their customs.
The streets, homes, offices, and cars are filled with aromas, colors, and flavors typical of the time that evoke very particular feelings and emotions.
Most people look forward to the Christmas season because their calendars are filled with family activities; often get together with friends and together create intimate and unique celebrations.
Most of the celebrations are religious due to Mexico’s Catholic population. However, people have adapted them to fit their Mexican culture and their personalities.
This is probably one of the most important Christmas traditions in Mexican culture.
Posadas are a type of procession, on a small scale, representing the journey Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary made in Bethlehem, looking for a refuge to stay so that Jesus could be born.
This activity can be organized with family, but in many places, neighbors come together too. People decide when the posada will arrive at each neighbor’s house and where the tour begins and ends.
Every day, the posada leaves one house for its next destination. Those who decide to accompany it carry candles and sing Christmas carols.
Upon arriving at the chosen house, the accompanying group sings a song requesting to be allowed into the inn. The people inside the house sing back, denying them entry.
They eventually let them in and greet them with a great feast in celebration that there is finally a place where the Baby Jesus can be born. The host family also welcomes people with a piñata for the children.
However, in other regions of Mexico, such as Veracruz, Guerrero, Campeche, and Yucatán, they perform the tradition of La Rama instead of the posadas.
This consists of families decorating branches and going out with them into the streets to sing Christmas carols, dance, and ask for “bonuses” of fruit or sweets. Some families usually give money instead of fruits or sweets.
Both posadas and the tradition of La Rama take place from December 16 to 24.
Mexican culture and other Latin American countries have added an important element to the Christmas decorations.
Apart from the famous Christmas tree, the garlands that decorate the doors and windows, Christmas lights, and other elements that decorate the house’s interior, people also place a Nacimiento or Nativity scene somewhere inside their houses.
Nacimientos are scale representations of the birth of Baby Jesus. Initially, the set included only Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, the three wise men, the shepherd with his sheep, the ox, and the mule.
However, with the passing of generations, and depending on the region, more characters have been added, such as houses, parks, markets, lagoons, people working, etc.
Depending on the family’s creativity, it can be a simple Nacimiento or models the size of an entire room or with life-size or miniature figures.
Nativity scenes are also held in offices, schools, neighborhoods, churches, streets, and parks. It’s definitely one of the most beloved traditions in Mexico.
In other regions, the preparation of Nacimientos is more traditional. For example, in Michoacán, the figures they decorate are made by hand with wood from Morelia or Jacona, and people dress them using textiles from San Lorenzo Purenchecuaro.
The figures are dressed according to the region’s ethnicity and the traditions they carry out. You’ll find fishermen, indigenous people, or typical dancers from Michoacán.
Las Pastorelas is another iconic Mexican tradition.
This tradition originated during the Spanish conquest of Mexico during the viceregal era.
The evangelists of the Catholic Church sought to teach and explain passages of the Bible and aspects such as sin and faith to native Mexicans through dramatization.
Pastorelas dramatize the shepherds’ journey in search of Baby Jesus. Along the way, shepherds face the devil, who is responsible for distracting them and delaying them as much as possible so that they can’t find Jesus.
At the end of the dramatization, Archangel Michael triumphs over evil, and the shepherds continue to go to the manger.
This passage is performed in the country’s schools by children who sing and dance.
Tradition indicates that these plays are mostly humorous and satirical, and when performed for adults, they include jokes and address political issues.
You can experience pastorela up close across Mexico, but the most famous is the Pastorela de Tepotzotlán, in Mexico State.
Here you’ll find one of the most recognized pastorela productions in the country since performances take place in a convent, and people can also enjoy posadas and traditional food.
Christmas Mexican Traditions in Other Regions
Although the activities mentioned above are celebrated throughout Mexico, and in surrounding countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, there are also regional Christmas traditions in Mexico.
One of those activities is the Noche de Rábanos, a popular tradition in Oaxaca.
This is one of the celebrations with the most remarkable presence in this city. The date on which it’s carried out is December 23, and it’s on this day that creativity and crafts come to life.
Oaxaca’s gardeners and flower growers participate in this activity, which, although it only lasts a few hours, is the most popular activity since all the city’s inhabitants gather in the Zócalo to admire people’s creations.
With their artistic talent and skillful hands, they make unique designs with Christmas season motifs in materials such as radish, the immortal flower, and Totomoxtle.
In Michoacán, they also have a very particular tradition that is the pride of the locals.
The Takari Festival is one of the best-known in the region and is organized in the town of Tarímbaro.
Villagers dance through several streets of the town, and at the same time, hay is collected from the streets and homes to make the manger of the Child Jesus.
This dance results from the syncretism between the Purépecha and Spanish cultures, derived after the conquest.
Starting on December 15, the youngest inhabitants go out to the hill to cut the Takari, a plant with small leaves and flowers used to decorate the temple, and the person in charge of transporting a figure of Baby Jesus.
The population celebrates the return of the young people eating local pozole, buñuelos, and chapadas.
Children and adults can participate in the dance. It takes place starting on December 15 and lasts for nine days. This dance shows the union between the Catholic posada and the Mexican Purépecha traditions.
We cannot leave aside the traditions of New Spanish origin influenced by the church and heritage of Spaniards and Creoles.
One of them is the Christmas tree, which comes from a German heritage and was adopted by European countries. Then, it arrived in the United States and was incorporated into Latin America with the exchange of gifts on Christmas night.
Of course, music cannot be missing from this special celebration!
Mexican Christmas carols address Christmas biblical passages, such as the birth of the Baby Jesus.
People consider Hoy nació el Redentor del Mundo (Today the Redeemer of the World was Born) the first Mexican carol ever written.
Other carols include Marimonera, Arre Borriquito, Campana sobre Campana, Los Peces en el Río, and Mi Burrito Sabanero.
People also sing foreign songs such as Silent Night, White Christmas, The Drummer Boy, Merry Christmas, etc.
Editor’s pick: Christmas Words in Spanish: A Vocabulary Guide
Mexican Christmas Food, Decorations, and Markets
Traditional Mexican Christmas food cannot be missed since it’s one of the main elements accompanying the celebrations, family gatherings, and activities.
The traditional Christmas dinner is full of Mexican cuisine with various textures, colors, aromas, and seasonings. The dishes are a fusion of indigenous and Spanish culture.
The main dish is cod or bacalao, a traditional Mexican dish made up of tomato, olive oil, garlic, onion, white wine, potatoes, red pepper, and olives.
The romeritos are also typical of the season. Romeritos include rosemary leaves and quelite leaves that grow in the cornfields bathed in mole prepared using shrimp powder.
Tamales are also a must! Although this dish can be enjoyed at any time of the year, it’s also a famous Christmas dinner option. The preparation takes several days, but the result is exquisite.
Surely, you’ve already tried some!
For dessert, you can enjoy buñuelos, a type of crunchy treat made of wheat flour dough fried in oil and then bathed in a honey sauce and sprinkled with a bit of sugar.
And to finish, the delicious ponche navideño, a hot drink made with all kinds of fruits, boiled with cinnamon and sugar, and served fresh from the stove.
In Mexico, you cannot miss bright and colorful decorations with a touch of Mexican tradition and culture.
In December, the famous traditional markets in Mexico change their merchandise to offer Christmas decorations, gifts, and whatever you need for the end-of-the-year celebrations.
You can find natural and artificial Christmas trees, lights, spheres, decorations for the tree, piñatas, hay, nativity scenes, gifts, and even ingredients to prepare ponche navideño.
One of the decorations that you’ll find in all Mexican homes is the Christmas Eve flower or flor de pascua, a plant with a showy, vibrant red flower.
In the past, before the arrival of the conquistadors, people used it in rituals and sacrifices. They also used it to dye materials such as leather and cotton.
Some of the most famous Christmas markets, or tianguis, in Mexico City are Mercado de Jamaica, Mercado de la Merced, Mercado de Medellín, Mercado de Coyoacán, and the Tianguis Navideño de la Venustiano Carranza.
Read more about Christmas in Latin America: What To Expect When Visiting Guatemala During Christmas
Learn Spanish and Enjoy a Mexican Christmas
The Christmas season in Mexico is another festivity you don’t want to miss while searching for new adventures in Latin America.
The aromas, the celebrations, the magical atmosphere, and its friendly people undoubtedly make the experience totally rewarding.
Although most activities are of religious origin, the touch that Mexicans give to each one makes it more joyful and memorable. It’s crucial to know different traditions that help us understand the history behind their culture and customs.
To better absorb each of the celebrations you’ll experience in Mexico, you should include learning Spanish on your list of things to do.
By learning their official language, you’ll have a more complete and immersive experience since you’ll be able to talk to the locals and ask for advice on what activities and places you cannot miss.
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