Are you spending Christmas in Mexico? Here are the Christmas traditions in Mexico you will want to experience when visiting Mexico during this festive period.
Christmas is a big affair in Mexico, with the festivities starting from as early as December 8th. The Mexicans celebrate Christmas in the same kind of fervor as they do for other Mexican holidays, with plenty of music, dance, and of course food! Like most of Latin America, Mexico has inherited many Christmas traditions from Spain, but they’re infused with indigenous flavors. Each region has its own unique Christmas traditions, read on to find out!
Christmas time is one of the best time to visit Mexico City, with its world-renowned Christmas tianguis (open-air markets), that spring to life every winter. If you’re looking to immerse in indigneous cultures, Oaxaca and Chiapas are extra atmospheric and vibrant at Christmas. Chihuahua and Copper Canyon get pretty cold in winter, sometimes it even snows in the town of Creel. Christmas traditions in Mexico are special, regardless of where you’re visiting.
Table of Contents
- Christmas in Mexico
- Christmas Food In Mexico
- Mexican Christmas Decorations
- Unique Mexican Christmas Traditions
Christmas in Mexico
8th Dec: Día de la Inmaculada Concepción
This is an important religious feast for Mexicans, marking the start of the Christmas season. The main focus of this day is to celebrate the Virgin Mary; Catholics usually attend special masses and visit shrines dedicated to her. The feast celebrates how the virgin Mary herself was conceived without original sin and is celebrated with traditional foods.
16-24 th Dec: Las Posadas
One of the most important Christmas traditions in Mexico is Las Posadas. The 9-day celebrations begin on December 16th and ends on the 24th, with a massive celebration of Jesus’ birthday. The 9 days of celebration represent the 9 months of pregnancy of the Virgin Mary with her son Jesus. Over the 9 days, parties are held at local homes, with plenty of food, music, fireworks, and piñatas!
It symbolizes Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, and the story is played out at these fiestas with people singing songs and riding on mules. At the end of their journey, they stop at an inn where a traditional dinner is served. As the night comes to an end, guests enjoy delicious Ponche Navideño (Christmas Punch) and hot Buñuelos (fried dough with sugar).
24th Dec: Noche Buena
If you’re spending Christmas in Mexico, you have to stay for Noche Buena, a special dinner on Christmas Eve with the whole family gathered around the table. This is usually a large feast with traditional dishes such as tamales and pozole, accompanied by an abundance of sweets. The night is usually concluded with a family gathering and exchanging of gifts.
Misa de Gallo
Also known as the mass of the rooster, this important religious service takes place on Christmas Eve around midnight. During this special mass, Catholics remember the birth of Jesus Christ and sing traditional carols as a sign of respect and adoration for him. The gathering is concluded with a flurry of fireworks that light up the night sky and probably wake many non-catholic locals up from their Christmas eve snoozes.
25th Dec: Christmas Day in Mexico
On Christmas Day in Mexico, families come together to visit friends and relatives and exchange gifts. This is typically followed by plenty of singing and dancing – and perhaps even fireworks! In Mexico, Christmas day is a day of rest, all the local stores and shops close, so it’s a day saved to spend time with family and loved ones. This is also one of the best times to visit Mexico City as the whole city is enveloped in a magical atmosphere.
28th Dec: Los Santos Inocentes
On December 28th, Mexicans celebrate Los Santos Inocentes. On this day, people remember the story of King Herod ordering to kill all children under two in Bethlehem out of fear that they would one day rise up against him.
This day is much like the Mexican version of April fool’s day. It’s a day for pranking each other – much like April Fools Day! Old stories also state that loans taken on this day are exempt from being paid back by the borrower, so watch out before your friends ask to borrow something.
1 st Jan: New Year’s Day in Mexico
At the chime of the midnight bell, it’s tradition to eat 12 grapes. One for each ding of the bell. This signifies the 12 months of the year and is thought to bring good luck. It sounds easy, but give it a try, and you’ll find it’s easier said than done. The remainder of New Year’s Day is typically celebrated with food, music, dancing, and lots of fireworks!
6th Jan: Día de Los Reyes Magos
It’s commonplace for kids to open gifts on Día de Los Reyes Magos. This is the day when Mexicans remember the three wise men who followed a star to find baby Jesus and gave him gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. Parents usually put out shoes for their kids to be filled with toys and candy. So children in Mexico often have to follow in the baby Jesus’ footsteps and open them on the same day he got them from the three wise men.
2nd Feb: Día de la Candelaria
Día de la Candelaria marks the end of the Christmas season in Mexico. Mexicans usually make hot tamales, put them in a small basket, and take them to church for a blessing from their priest. After the blessing, they will eat the tamales and drink atole (a hot corn-based beverage), as well as exchange gifts and dance.
Christmas Food In Mexico
The food in Mexico throughout the year is spectacular, but Christmas brings out the best of Mexican cuisine. Each region of Mexico has its own special dish that it is known for around this time too.
No Christmas in Mexico is complete without tamales. This tasty treat is made by wrapping a mixture of cornmeal, lard, and spices in a leaf or parchment paper. Then it’s steamed to perfection! Tamales can contain different fillings like cheese, pork, beans, or fruit – so you’ll never get bored eating them.
Romeritos con Mole
Romeritos con Mole is a traditional dish served on the 24th of December. It’s made by simmering Romerito (a Mexican herb) in mole sauce and then adding it to boiled potatoes, vegetables, and shrimp. This tasty combination makes for a delicious and unique Christmas meal!
A staple in everyone’s Christmas dinner feast, bacalao (codfish) is definitely the most commonly eaten dish at this time of the year. It’s made by boiling the salted codfish with onions and garlic in tomato sauce and then served with boiled potatoes.
Pozole (Hominy Soup)
Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup made with hominy (dried corn kernels), pork, chicken, garlic, and spices. It’s served on Christmas Eve and is thought to bring good luck for the upcoming year. The dish originates from the state of Guerrero, which they traditionally have every Thursday.
Rosca de Reyes
Christmas in Mexico isn’t complete with the traditional Rosca de Reyes, a sweet twisted bread. It’s usually round and decorated with glaze and dried fruits. Hidden within the dough of this conventional pastry are little figurines that symbolize baby Jesus. Whoever finds one is said to have good luck for 365 days – or until next Christmas!
Buñuelos is a type of fried dough that’s popular in Mexico during the Christmas season. They’re usually shaped into balls, rings, or stars and filled with sweet fillings like chocolate, jam, or honey. Buñuelos are then topped with powdered sugar and eaten as a sweet treat.
Ponche Navideño is a much-loved Christmas punch enjoyed in Mexico. It’s made with apples, oranges, pears, prunes, guavas, raisins, and cinnamon. This traditional drink is typically served warm and goes perfectly with tamales or buñuelos.
Rompope (Mexican Style Eggnog)
Rompope is a delicious Mexican eggnog usually served during the holiday season. It’s made with eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and rum. Depending on your preference, the mixture is then simmered until thickened and served warm or cold.
Hojarascas (Christmas Cookies)
Hojarascas are traditional Mexican cookies that are served during Christmas. They’re made from flour, sugar, and margarine, then cut into various shapes and finished with cinnamon and sugar. These are traditionally eaten with hot chocolate as they can be a little dry.
Ensalada Nochebuena is a traditional Mexican salad served on Christmas Eve. It’s made with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and fruits. Then it’s dressed with olive oil and lime juice for an extra zing!
Mexican Christmas Decorations
Christmas decorations in Mexico are unique to the country, featuring nativity scenes, colorful lights, and paper flags known as “papel picado”. Christmas trees are decorated with ornaments, tinsel, and bright lights.
Piñatas are my favorite part of spending Christmas in Mexico. They’re usually made in the shape of a star and filled with candy, confetti, and other surprises. Piñatas traditionally were made from clay, but today they can be found in all shapes and sizes mostly made from cardboard and papier-mâché. They then fill them with candy and kids take turns hitting them until all the goodies inside spill out onto the floor.
Flor de Nochebuena
Flor de Nochebuena, or poinsettia flowers, are a popular Christmas decoration in Mexico. They come in different sizes and Cabernet colors such as deep reds and opulent pinks. They are usually placed around the home to add some festive cheer.
Nacimientos (Nativity Displays)
Nacimientos are nativity scenes that are religious displays all around the country at this time of year. They typically feature a scene of the baby Jesus in a manger surrounded by his family, angels, shepherds, and animals. People often display this around their homes to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Las Pastorelas (Christmas Plays)
Sometimes funny and sometimes serious, Las Pastorelas are popular Christmas plays throughout Mexico. They usually tell the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and feature singing, dancing, and lots of colorful costumes. Around the festive period, you’ll often see groups playing out the scenes on the street by a small nativity display. You can even find them on the metro system throughout Mexico City.
Fun fact: Mexico hosted the world’s tallest Christmas tree back in 2009. It came in at a massive 362 ft (110m) tall! French Emperor Maximilian was the first person to introduce Christmas trees to Mexico back in 1864. Recently they have become a lot more popular throughout the country, and now you see them scattered throughout major cities at religious sites and plaza squares.
Luminarias (Paper Lanterns)
They’re made from paper bags filled with sand and lit with candles to light the way for baby Jesus. This tradition is believed to bring good luck for the upcoming year and provide a festive atmosphere.
Finally, Cantadas are special singing parties held in churches throughout Mexico on Christmas Eve. The celebration begins with a procession of people carrying the Baby Jesus doll around the church, followed by prayers and traditional folk songs.
If you travel to smaller religious communities within Mexico, such as in the mountainous region of Puebla, you’ll often come across a continual bang of fireworks on Christmas Eve. These are set off to signify the churches’ belief in the birth of Jesus. They often go throughout the night, waking you up sporadically with a loud bang.
Unique Mexican Christmas Traditions
Noche de las Rabanos, Oaxaca
Noche de las Rabanos or The Night of the Radishes, takes place in Oaxaca every 23rd December. Local artisans carve and shape locally-grown radishes into animals, figures, scenes, and other incredible displays to celebrate Christmas.
It began in the 1800s when the Oaxaca Mayor announced a radish carving competition at the local Christmas market. The tradition lives on to this day, but it’s only found in Oaxaca. Check out our list of things to do in Oaxaca.
Locals have developed a unique Christmas tradition in Xochimilco, an outlying neighborhood of Mexico city best known for its canals and colorful boats. The Niñopa – an image of baby Jesus – is passed through different families of the region. The Mayordomo is the sponsored family that takes the image for the upcoming year. This is a tradition that has been going on for over 400 years.
Puerto Vallarta’s New Year’s Party
Troves of locals and tourists line the streets of Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon to witness the New Year’s spectacular fireworks display. Many bars and restaurants offer special food and drink offers for people to enjoy a night of celebration with friends, family, and strangers. As the clock strikes midnight, everyone erupts into cheers as the sky lights up in colorful hues from all the fireworks.
Will You be spending Christmas in Mexico?
Christmas in Mexico is something special. There are so many Christmas traditions in Mexico, from the food they eat to the parties that are thrown. Each region from Chiapas to Mexico City has something special to offer and will undoubtedly bring some holiday cheer into your life.
If you plan to spend Christmas in Mexico, check out my other articles on different aspects to help your travels here.
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- Best Time to Visit Tulum
- 22 Best Day Trips from Mexico City
- Bacalar Mexico: My 2022 Guide to Bacalar Lagoon
- 25 Best Restaurants in San Cristobal de las Casas
- 22 Best Day Trips from Mexico City
- 30 Cool Things to Do in Guanajuato, Mexico in 2022
- Guanajuato Itinerary: An Epic 10-Day Road Trip