Christmas customs around the world, like Mexican Christmas traditions, offer insight into the way another culture celebrates the holiday.
Mexican Christmas Calendar
Christmas in Mexico is typically celebrated with the Christian, especially Catholic, religion in mind. Many traditions involve the religious nature of the holiday, and the season typically follows a church calendar. Instead of being a single day or two in December, the festivities are drawn out to last approximately six weeks during the winter months. The important dates are:
- December 16th: Beginning of Las Posadas, which lasts nine days, ending on the 24th
- December 24th: Christmas Eve
- December 25th: Christmas Day
- December 28th: Day of the Innocents
- January 6th: Epiphany, or Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day/Day of the Three Kings)
- February 2nd: Candlemas
Although a number of western and U.S. customs, like Father Christmas and Christmas trees have infiltrated the Mexican culture, the religious significance of the season stays at the forefront of the holiday celebrations.
Celebrate Mexican Christmas Traditions
Each special day on the Mexican holiday calendar offers insight into how the people celebrate Christmas. Actual practices might vary from region to region or even within a particular family.
Las Posadas signifies the trip the pregnant Virgin Mary and her husband Joseph had to make to Bethlehem. As the Bible recounts, the trip was necessary because King Herod ordered everyone to be counted in a census. According to scripture, upon arrival, the couple had to make do in a stable, as there were no available rooms at the inn.
Each night from December 16 until Christmas Eve, children and adults gather together in a procession that symbolizes Mary and Joseph's search for shelter. Children or adults can portray the couple, or they might be symbolized by statues that are carried. The procession moves from house to house, knocking on doors as they sing a traditional chant to be let in. Time and time again, they are turned down, until they are welcomed into a home where festivities await.
Christmas Eve and Day
Christmas Eve concludes Las Posadas activities. At midnight, most families attend mass together, then retire to their homes for a large feast of traditional Mexican recipes. After the meal, children might play games or break piñatas. Adults may exchange gifts with one another.Christmas Day is a national holiday and religious holiday. Families that have adopted U.S. customs might awake to find presents from Santa Claus beneath the tree.
Day of the Innocents
According to Mexconnet, the Day of the Innocents used to be a day that commemorated King Herod's order to murder all children under the age of two. Today, it is celebrated more as a prank-filled day similar to that of April Fool's Day in the U.S. People are not supposed to lend anything to others on this day or they may not get it back. Notes and small treats might be given to those who are "innocent" and fall for the prank.
Dia de los Reyes
The Three Kings Day celebrates the arrival of the three Magi in Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. It is also Epiphany in the church calendar. Unlike children in the U.S., who put out stockings on Christmas Eve, many Mexican children will place shoes out for the kings to fill on their journey to visit Jesus.
Later in the day, families will host a small meal called merienda, where a dish called rosca de reyes is served. It is a sweet bread or cake that has a small baby hidden inside. The person who is served the slice with the baby must host a party on the final day of the Christmas season.
Candlemas, or Candelaria, is the last day of celebration for the holiday. On this day, Nativity scenes are taken down. Sometimes, the figure of baby Jesus is brought to a temple to be blessed. Parities are hosted by the person who was served the special slice of rosca de reyes bread.
Traditional trimmings of the season, such as large displays of lighted pine trees or snowmen, are not usually found in Mexico. Christmas is typically warm in the country, especially in regions nearest to the Equator. Christmas decorations that might be found include:
- Nativity scenes
- Poinsettias, a traditional Christmas flower
- Religious figures, icons or saints
- Westernized images of Santa Claus
- Small tree branches with some decorations, taking the place of large holiday trees
The focal point of Mexican Christmas traditions is rooted in the Christian beliefs of the people. Festivities and parties abound, celebrating the joyous news of the birth of baby Jesus as told in the Bible.