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Holiday Traditions in Mexico Posted by on Dec 13, 2018 in Holidays, Mexican culture

The holidays are upon us! December is filled with so many festivities and traditions around the world, and Mexico is no exception. In this post, I will cover just a few of the traditions that some people observe such as posadas, ponche, los villancicos, and el nacimiento.

Guadalupe-Reyes

The party marathon that stretches from December 12 to January 6th is nicknamed the Guadalupe-Reyes. These are intense weeks of celebration with lots of food, drinks, and family. December 12 is the birthday of the patrona of Mexico, la Virgen de Guadalupe.  Her birthday is a huge celebration throughout the country and many people, nicknamed Guadalupanos, do a pilgrimage from all over the country to her church in Mexico City named La Basilica de Guadalupe. When I was young, Christmas did not officially begin until after December 12 as a sign of respect for the virgin. This has changed and Christmas decorations are up at the beginning of December.

Photo taken by Joaquín Martínez found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0

In this marathon, Reyes, are the three wise men or the reyes magos as they are called in Spanish. On January 6th, the reyes bring kids presents, kind of like Santa Claus. Santa Claus is quite a young tradition in Mexico. In my mom’s time, baby Jesus would bring you a present on the eve of December 24th. Nowadays, most families are visited by Santa Claus and then again by the Reyes Magos, when the holidays are officially concluded.

Posadas

The official posada season begins on December 16, however, nowadays, the word is used to just mean any holiday party. Posada literally means an inn and the idea is that people recreate the scenes of Mary and Joseph asking for shelter before the birth of Jesus. Two people dress up as Mary and Joseph while others act as the hosteleros or the owners of the posada. People walk around singing villancicos (Christmas songs) until, in the end, Mary and Joseph are let in. One of the most common villancico is below.

Los PeregrinosEn el nombre del cielo,
yo os pido posada,
pues no puede andar,
mi esposa amada.
Los HostelerosAquí no es mesón,
sigan adelante,
no les puedo abrir,
no vaya a ser un tunante.
Los PeregrinosNo sean inhumanos
Dennos caridad
Que el dios de los cielos
Se lo premiará.
Los Hosteleros Ya se pueden ir,
y no molestar
Porque si me enfado
Los voy a apalear
Los PeregrinosVenimos rendidos
Desde Nazaret
Yo soy carpintero
De nombre José
Los HostelerosNo me importa el nombre
Déjenme dormir
Pues yo ya les digo
Que no hemos de abrir
Los PeregrinosPosada le pido,
amado casero,
pues madre va a ser,
la reina del cielo
Los HostelerosPues si es una reina,
quien lo solicita,
¿cómo es que de noche
anda tan solita?
Los PeregrinosMi esposa es María
Reina del cielo
Y madre va a ser
Del divino verbo
Los HostelerosEres tú José
Tu esposa es María
Entren peregrinos
No los conocía
Los PeregrinosDios pague señores
Nuestra caridad
Y os colme el cielo
De felicidad
TodosDichosa la casa
Que abriga este día
A la virgen pura
La hermosa María.
Entren Santos Peregrinos,
Reciban este rincón,
que aunque es pobre la morada,
os la doy de corazón.

Comida

The most important part of the celebration: la comida. There are several traditional dishes that people eat during the holidays. I will name just a few in this section.

Churros y buñuelos

The cooler evenings call for some comfort food and nothing says comfort quite like churros and buñuelos. Because churros are a lot more common, I will focus on describing buñuelos. These are basically a dough mix with anise that is flattened like a tortilla and then fried. It is topped with cinnamon and sugar and is a common treat in markets.

Romeritos

Romeritos are quite common during Christmas dinner, and, from what I gather from my grandmother, are quite tedious to make. The dish consists of a spring of a plant called Suaeda plant covered in mole sauce and accompanied with a shrimp pattie. The video below explains where and when this plant is grown.

Bacalao

This is certainly a Spanish influence. For Christmas and New Years, Bacalao a la vizcaína or Basque Style Codfish is a staple. The dish is mainly comprised of salted codfish cooked with potatoes, capers, tomato sauce, onions, and olives. Most specialty stores in Mexico sell high quality salted codfish in December.

Ponche

Last but not least ponche navideño. This beverage is a warm fruit punch that is made with typical winter fruit of Mexico including guayaba, tejocotes (crataegus mexicana, like a wild small apple), ciruelas pasas (prunes), manzanas (apple), peras (pear), and tamarindo (tamarind) all mixed nicely with a bit of rum.

El Nacimiento

Mexico is a religious country and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the Nativity scene. Families set up their own nativity scenes at home, and some are very extravagant. I remember once walking around near my home in Mexico and seeing a house with a huge nativity scene on what would be the covered driveway. They had so many animals and different scenes within the nativity scene. Some Mexican families like to create a heaven and hell type of scene with sheep that represent the different members of the family. Some families like to move these sheep around depending on their behavior. Mischievous children tend to have their sheep in hell while others might just be on their way there.

The news segment below describes in more detail some of the traditions around the holidays.

How do you celebrate the holidays? Have you ever been to a posada?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!