Mexican holydays are very famous and remarkable, especially the Day of the Dead, although as you will see most of these holydays are Catholic because they were brought and imposed during the conquest of Mexico.
List of Mexican Holydays
Christmas Eve is celebrated, almost everywhere, with the family and friends and other unexpected guests, who may even be announced on the same day. At home, a Christmas tree decorated with spheres, paper ornaments, and lights is usually put up.
A few days before, a nativity scene is placed under the tree, but it is not until December 24 that the baby Jesus is placed in it. A popular decoration today is the world-famous star of Bethlehem, decorative plants with green and red leaves. Christmas carols are sung before dinner, followed by the opening of gifts.
Throughout the holiday season, you can also watch “Pastorelas“, theatrical performances that represent the stories of the shepherds who followed the Star of Bethlehem to Jesus’ birthplace.
2. New Year
New Year’s Day, like Christmas, is celebrated in a similar way in other countries. The customs associated with this day come directly from Spain. Parties are organized usually with the family and at midnight 12 grapes are eaten, as a symbol of the twelve months to come and with each grape you make a wish.
The traditions associated with the New Year, such as wearing red underwear to ensure good luck in love; sweeping the house outward to keep bad vibes awary; putting money in your shoes for good luck; packing your suitcase and walking with it in the street to ensure a year of numerous trips.
3. Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe
On December 12th Mexicans usually celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe where many families and acquaintances gather to give thanks and pray to the Virgin for everything they have.
Also, a large number of pilgrims make their way on foot to the Basílica de Guadalupe in Mexico City from all over the country, from Yucatan to Baja California, as a sign of gratitude and devotion. Many people in the capital as a form of support prepare food for pilgrims.
4. Christmas "Posadas"
Posadas are traditions originated in the Iberian Peninsula. Nowadays, rarely happens in Spain, while it can easily be found in Mexico. Posadas are celebrations representing the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. There are nine in all, as they symbolize nine months of pregnancy. The first posada happens on December 16 and the last on December 24.
Each evening, a procession of people walk down the street, usually with candles and statues of Jesus, Mary, or popular saints singing carols (Villancicos navideños), sometimes stopping for prayer, scripture readings, and inviting passersby to join the procession. This symbolize the biblical journey of Joseph and Mary in search of a place to spend the night. Afterwards, the host starts handing out food to the “pilgrims” while the children break the “piñatas“.
5. Battle of Puebla
In Mexico, the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations take place in the city of Puebla, where parades of more than 12,000 people, fireworks displays, and battle representations can be witnessed. Every year, walking citizens and military authorities join the celebrations, and the streets are full of over 30,000 spectators.
Cinco de Mayo is an especially popular day in the United States, where the Mexican community (of some 34 million individuals) constitutes the largest subgroup among Hispanic populations in North America.
The date also became popular due to the influence of then President Franklin Roosevelt who, in 1933, promoted policies to improve relations with Latin American countries, including Mexico.
6. Mexican Independence Day
On Independence Day, banks, schools, offices, and numerous companies are closed. Some streets and highways may be closed or restricted in major cities to host the large celebrations. Public transportation is also restricted on these days.
On the evening of September 15, the President of Mexico comes out off the balcony of the National Palace to announce the beginning of the Independence Day celebrations. He performs the Grito de Independencia (which consists of cheers) and rings a bell brought from the church of Dolores. It all comes with parties, concerts and fireworks.
Mexicans celebrate Independence Day for several days. During this period, towns and cities all over Mexico are decked out in the colors of the Mexican flag: red, white and green. The streets, squares and houses are full of parties, food, dance, music and fireworks, and the shout of “Viva Mexico” is heard throughout the crowd.
7. Three Wise Men
Another celebration in the long cycle is the Epiphany, on January 6th. Like others, this holiday is adapted to Mexican. A few days before January 6, children write letters to the three wise men (Melchior, Casper, or Balthazar) asking for the gifts they dream of. The letters are placed on the Christmas tree or tied to balloons and released into the sky (showing them to their parents beforehand, of course).
On the night of January 5-6, the children place their shoes under the Christmas tree, which is where the kings leave the presents. In the morning, the children wake up earlier than usual and rush to put on their shoes to see the presents left by the three wise men.
8. The Day of The Dead
The Day of the Dead has ancestral roots in Mesoamerica with the Aztecas, the Toltecas, and other ancient cultures that regarded mourning as a lack of respect for the dead.
For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in the long continuum of life: the dead remained members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit, and during the Day of the Dead returned to Earth.
The centerpiece of the celebration is an altar, or “ofrenda“, which is set up not only in private homes and cemeteries but also in plazas. Contrary to what one might think, they are not altars for worship, but represent the gateway between life and death: they are meant to welcome the spirits into the realm of the living and, as such, are laden with offerings, water to quench the thirst after the long journey, food, family photos and a candle for each deceased relative.