Mexico might be famous for its wonderful Day of the Dead celebrations, but they also put their own unique spin on Christmas.
Traditional Christmas celebrations in Mexico are a mixture of religious traditions and modern festivities. The result is a truly enchanting holiday season that you’ve got to experience at least once in your life. The Mexican celebration of Christmas begins each year on December 16th, too, so their holiday season starts long before the standard Christmas Eve.
Whether you’re travelling to Mexico for Christmas or simply want to familiarise yourself with the customs, here are seven unique Christmas traditions in Mexico you can expect to partake in.
1. Las Posadas
The first thing you need to understand about Christmas traditions in Mexico is the tradition of posadas. This translates to mean “inn” in English, and the celebration begins on December 16th. Each night from the 16th until the 24th, children go from door to door singing and asking if there’s an open room at the “inn.” This is meant to represent the story of Mary and Joseph, but modern-day traditions feature a posada party at the end of each night.
2. Nativity Scenes
If you thought the offerings at the Day of the Dead festivals were impressive, then just wait until you the some of the more elaborate nativity scenes in Mexico. Because the culture is still quite religious, the Christmas season is rooted in the Christian story of the birth of Baby Jesus. Therefore, Christmas nativity scenes are important. However, you won’t find Baby Jesus inside of the manger until the 24th.
Head to any posada party and you’ll undoubtedly find a piñata hanging from the ceilings. These are popular additions to nearly every Mexican festivity, and the tradition carries over into Christmas as well. At Christmastime, however, the piñatas have seven different spikes around them to represent the seven deadly sins.
4. Ponche and Rompope
Ponche is pretty much the Mexican equivalent of the kind of mulled wine you’ll find at European Christmas markets. The warm Christmas punch is made with fruit. And, Rompope is the equivalent of egg nog. You’ll pretty much always find it spiced to perfection and full of really strong rum. So, it’s creamy, filling, and quite alcoholic, usually.
5. Dia de Los Reyes
Similar to Spain and other parts of Latin America, certain families in Mexico celebrate the Three Kings Day, which falls on January 6th each year. While Santa still visits children on Christmas Eve, it’s not uncommon for the Three Kings to pay a visit the evening before the Three Kings Day and leave some candy or small gifts.
6. Rosca de Reyes
Because the Three Kings Day is one of the most popular Christmas traditions in Mexico, you better bet that there’s a cake to accompany the festivities. On this special day, families gather around to enjoy something called a Rosca de Reyes. The oval-shaped bread is covered in fruits and, hidden inside, you’ll find a baby figurine. Whoever gets the small plastic baby in their slice has to throw a tamale party on February 2nd.
February 2nd might be the day of the coveted tamale party. But, it also marks the end of the Mexican Christmas season. The day itself is called La Candelaria, or Candlemas, and it’s marked by lots of crazy parties and festivities to end the wonderful holiday season.