Mexican Christmas Festivities

The Christmas holidays in Mexico are warm and colorful. Mexico celebrates these holidays at great length and with  a delightful array of seasonal traditions that make Christmas in Mexico a unique and unforgettable experience.

Seasonal festivities begin on December 12 and continue until February 2 with special focus on Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Three Wise Men's Day (January 6th).

December 12: Dia de la Virgin de Guadalupe (Virgin of Guadalupe) is the unofficial start of the Christmas celebrations.  Most businesses in the predominant city centers throughout Mexico work only a half day, closing at lunchtime. The Virgin of Guadalupe Parade and the influx of tourists, pilgrims and local faithful disrupt conventional transport systems, but it is important to allow employees the flexibility to attend a Mass if they so desire.  Artificial Christmas Trees decorated with all kinds of hand-made or store bought ornaments are put up on this day.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Day celebrates the apparition of the dark-skinned Virgin to a poor Indian native, Juan Diego, in 1531, hastening the conversion of the indigenous people to Christianity. Many faithful Catholics start walking from their villages and towns to partake in Mass at the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the suburb of Tepeyac, Mexico City.

It is customary to end the pilgrimage by making individual promises, asking favors or simply paying homage to the Virgin before beginning the long journey back.  

NOTE: This is such an important day to Mexicans, your colleagues in Mexico would welcome a message from you on this day.  It could say something like: "I want to wish you a very happy Virgin of Guadalupe Day!" or in Spanish, "Felicidades para el dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe!"

December 15: Las Posadas begin and continue every day until December 24. Posadas are reenactments of Joseph's and Mary's journey starting in Nazareth, their search for lodging in Bethlehem and the birth of Baby Jesus. Light refreshments of tamales (steamed corn meal wrapped in corn husks with a center filling of chicken, beef or other meat in a red or green sauce or filled with raisins for a sweet tooth variety) and Ponche Caliente (hot spiced fruit punch) are served to the adults as the children snack on the goodies they have garnered from breaking a piñata.

Most families prepare their own Nativity Scene portraying the manger scene with an ox, a donkey, shepherds and their flocks, as well as other livestock, and a place to lay Baby Jesus to rest. Size and splendor reflect an individual's likes, dislikes and economical means.

December 24: After midnight Mass Baby Jesus is laid to sleep in the manger. Following this, participants in the posadas are welcomed to eat at the home of the innkeeper, or they may choose to go to their respective homes to have dinner with family and friends and exchange gifts.

December 25: As the traditional Christmas meal does not start until after midnight, and usually lasts well into the early morning hours of Christmas Day, the rest of the day is spent relaxing, enjoying the company of others and eating.

January 1: Año Nuevo (New Year's Day). A variety of ways exist for welcoming the New Year depending on individual likes and dislikes. The evening may be spent attending the Zocolo (Town Plaza) activities, going to a discotheque/dance or sharing a reflective moment at a family meal, and eating one grape for each of 12 wishes/resolutions made for the New Year and drinking ponche (Hot, spiced fruit punch) or Sidral (Apple Cider). Most workers return to work the following day.

January 6th: Tradition has it that the arrival of Los Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men) bearing gifts of gold, incense and myrrh is celebrated by giving gifts, predominantly to children. Businesses with factory employees usually invite the wives and children to participate in the handing out of presents to all the children and the breaking of many piñatas.

Great excitement surrounds the eating of la Rosca de Reyes, a sweet bread made in the shape of an oval with a hole in the middle and decorated with thin strips of candied fruit such as figs, quince, cherries, pineapple, lemon and orange. Baked into the dough of the Rosca is a doll, and whoever receives the piece with the doll is obliged to give a party on February 2.

February 2. El dia de Candelaria (Day of Purification or "Candlemas") is the ending of the Christmas season festivities with the dismantling of the Nativity Scene. Numerous get-togethers are held at the home of the recipient of the Rosca doll for friends and family to eat tamales and drink atole (a corn gruel beverage of chocolate or strawberry favor).

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