The Christmas season in Mexico begins on 16 December, with floral displays of evergreens and lilies and candle-lit lanterns lining the streets. On Christmas Eve, children lead a procession to the church and place a figure of the Christ child in the nativity scene there. Midnight mass follows and then there are fireworks.
The weather is warm and dry between December and January, which makes your biggest challenge deciding how much time to spend exploring ancient Aztec, Maya and Toltec ruins and unwinding on idyllic beaches. Here we look at some of the Christmas celebrations you can come across in Mexico:
Tropico Music Festival, Acapulco
This three-day beachfront festival in Acapulco, Guerrero takes place at the beginning of December. Headlining in 2019 is The Rapture as well as Deerhunter, Digable Planets and a live DJ set by Kalabrese. Tropico is about more than just music. There are art displays and fashion events where you can pick a Christmas gift for later in the month. There is also time to enjoy pool parties with tropical cocktails and delicious food.
The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City
Considered the most important Catholic tradition in Mexico, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a national holiday on 12 December. It is on this date in 1531 that Our Lady is said to have last appeared to Juan Diego. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City welcomes more than five million pilgrims on this day each year, some led by matlachine dancers who lead the processions to the basilica. The celebration begins at 18:45 the previous day with tributes and then at midnight the traditional “Mañanitas” are sung. Throughout the morning and until 20:00 there are masses, with the noon mass dedicated to the Celebration and Blessing of the Roses.
Piñata Festival, Teotihuacan (near Mexico City)
The Piñata Festival is celebrated in the town of Acolman de Nezahualcoyotl near Teotihuacan, close to Mexico City. Legend has it that the custom of breaking decorated clay pots suspended from a rope (piñatas) is said to have been introduced by Augustinian monks in the 16th Century. Here you can attend workshops in piñata-making as well as horse races, regional dances, music and staged plays.
Posadas are traditional community celebrations that take place each night from 16 to 24 December. As one of the country’s most traditional festivities, you will likely see this wherever you are staying. Posadas begins with a candlelit procession and the singing of Christmas carols. A representation of Mary and Joseph are part of the procession, which makes its way to a different home each night where the song La Cancion Para Pedir Posada (Song to Request Shelter) is sung by those in the procession and then those in the house until those outside are invited in. The party can be fancy or a small get-together by friends. Often there are bible readings and meditations on humility, strength, detachment, charity, trust, justice, purity, joy, and generosity. After which food and drink is shared and piñatas are broken.
Noche de Los Rábanos (Radish Night), Oaxaca City
Oaxaca City (wa-HA-ka) is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Sierra Madre mountain range of southern Mexico. It has rich cultural traditions, beautiful handicrafts, delicious food and striking architecture. If you are in Oaxaca City on 23 December, you can witness a unique Christmas season celebration in which artists carve and assemble radishes into figures and scenes which can all be viewed at stalls in the Zócalo, the city’s main square. Be prepared for long queues forming to see the works of art.
The last posada takes place on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena). It is traditional for families to gather for a late supper of traditional Mexican Christmas dishes and most cities put on public celebrations. Traditional dishes for the main Christmas meal include Pozole (a thick soup made with maize, chicken or pork and chillies topped with cabbage, onions, chillies or other garnish), roast turkey, roast pork, tamales, bacalao (salt cod), romeritos (a green vegetable cooked in a traditional Mexican mole sauce with potatoes and shrimps). There may also be salads.