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Mexican Christmas Traditions: How They Celebrate Christmas in Mexico

Updated on August 24, 2015
Las posadas are traditional Christmas processions in Mexico.
Las posadas are traditional Christmas processions in Mexico.

Mexican Christmas Traditions

When most English-speakers think of Christmas, they think of the customs and traditions which originated in Northern Europe; Christmas trees, evergreen wreaths, Santa Claus, mistletoe and more... However, Mexican Christmas traditions are very different to the holiday celebrations in the USA, for example. Christmas in Mexico is influenced by Spanish culture, and the Mexicans have also added many fascinating traditions of their own.

Read on to find out more about:

  • How Mexicans celebrate Christmas
  • Important dates in the Mexican Christmas season
  • Mexican Christmas food
  • Mexican Christmas decorations and ornaments


Important dates in the Mexican Christmas Season

  • December 16th - posadas begin and continue each night until 24th.
  • December 24th - Nochebuena, when most Mexicans attend midnight mass followed by a family meal.
  • December 28th - Dia de los Santos Inocentes - marks the day when Heron killed the innocents. In Mexico this has come to be celebrated as a day of practical jokes and tricks, like April Fool's Day.
  • December 31st - many Mexicans attend misa de gallo (rooster's crow mass) on New Year;s Eve and welcome in the new year with a dinner at home with family.
  • January 6th - Dia de los Reyes - on the day which marks the visit of the three kings it is traditional in Mexico to give gifts to children. This is similar to Spanish tradition, but the practice in both countries is starting to give way to the custom of Santa Claus bringing gifts on Christmas Eve.
  • February 2nd - Día de la Candelaría, or Candlemas in English. On this date Mexicans bring the infant Jesus models from their nativity scenes to church to receive a special blessing.

Christmas Celebrations in Mexico

In Mexico Christmas is not just a single day, but a whole season of Christmas-related celebrations which stretches from December 16th through February 2nd. Gift-giving is done on January 6th (the day which marks the visit of the three kings to Jesus in the manger), and is not as important as time spent with family and religious celebrations.

Christmas celebrations in Mexico begin with posadas, processions which take place on each of the nine evenings leading up to Christmas Eve (Nochebuena in Spanish). From 16th-24th December the people in a Mexican neighborhood gather together and process through the streets to a particular house. The neighbors take the part of the peregrinos or pilgrims (ie the Holy Family) in a song which is chanted back and forth between them and the residents of the house who play the part of the innkeeper. Eventually the peregrinos are admitted and there is a party in the house, with food and drink, and a piñata in the shape of a Christmas star.

Pastorelas are a traditional form of Christmas entertainment in Mexico. They began many centuries ago when Catholic priests would act out scenes from the bible to teach the local population about Christianity. Pastorela means 'little shepherdess' and these were traditionally Christmas plays about the story of the shepherds who came to visit the baby Jesus. The tradition has grown into more humorous stories of the eternal struggle between good and evil.

On Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) it is traditional for Mexican families to attend midnight mass before returning home to a late-night dinner. Gifts are not usually given at this time, but this is changing with increasing cultural influence from the USA. Santa has started coming to Mexico!

The singing of carols, known as villancicos is also a common custom. There are many Christmas songs in Spanish language which are traditionally sung in Mexico. Some are religious carols such as Noche de Paz (the Spanish language version of Silent Night), others are fun songs like Feliz Navidad....


Mexican Christmas Song: Feliz Navidad

Tamales are a traditional Mexican food which are often eaten during the Christmas season.
Tamales are a traditional Mexican food which are often eaten during the Christmas season.
Rosca de reyes is a traditional Mexican Christmas food served on January 6th.
Rosca de reyes is a traditional Mexican Christmas food served on January 6th.

Mexican Christmas Food

Mexico has a wonderful tradition of food, using the rich cornocopia to create dishes which delight people around the world - dishes such as guacamole, burritos, pico de gallo (hot salsa) and quesadillas. Tamales are particularly popular with Meicans at Christmas time and will often be served as part of dinner on Christmas eve. There are a wide variety of recipes for tamales available by searching online.

At the posadas parties in the lead up to Christmas Mexicans will serve a drink called ponche con piquete. It isa hot punch based on pulped seasonal fruits mixed with spices such as cinnamon, with an added shot of something alcoholic - the piquete, or sting - such as rum, brandy or tequila.

On January 6th, the day marking the visit of the three kings to the baby Jesus, Mexicans celebrate by eating a cake known as rosca de reyes. The cake is baked in a circular shape. It contains dried fruit and spices and is delicious served with a steaming cup of Mexican chocolate.

The Poinsetta flower comes from Mexican Christmas tradition. In Mexico it is known as the 'flor de noche buena'.
The Poinsetta flower comes from Mexican Christmas tradition. In Mexico it is known as the 'flor de noche buena'.
Mexicans commemorate the birth of Jesus with nacimientos, scenes depicting the manger in Bethlehem.
Mexicans commemorate the birth of Jesus with nacimientos, scenes depicting the manger in Bethlehem.
Pinatas in the shape of the Christmas star are a traditional Mexican decoration which also serves later as a party game.
Pinatas in the shape of the Christmas star are a traditional Mexican decoration which also serves later as a party game.

Mexican Christmas decorations

Flor de nochebuena: Perhaps the Mexican Christmas decoration which English-speakers are most familiar with, red poinsetta flowers adorn Mexican homes at Christmas time. There is a Mexican legend about how the flowers came to be associated with Christmas.... One Christmas eve (nochebuena) a poor girl picked a few weeds to bring to church for the baby Jesus, for she could not afford anything else. The other people in her neighborhood looked down on her, but she believed that Jesus would appreciate any gift given in love. When she arrived at church, the weeds bloomed into a wondeful bunch of red flowers with thick green leaves. Then all the people around knew that they had witnessed a true Christmas miracle.

Nacimientos: These are crib scenes depicting the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and the visits of the Shepherds and the Three Kings. Most Mexicans are Catholic and the religious aspects of Christmas are an essential part of their traditions. Few Mexican homes would be without a nacimiento at Christmas time. The baby Jesus is not added until midnight on Christmas eve and the Three Kings do not appear in the scene until January 6th,

Piñata star: Piñatas are a well known Mexican custom, and at Christmas the most typical piñata in Mexico is one which represents the Christmas star. Piñatas are made of paper and filled with treats. At the parties surrounding the posadas, children will put on a blinfold and take turns to try to hit the star with a stick. When it bursts the candies shower down to the floor and are shared with everyone.

Ornaments: It is now possible to buy a range of Mexican-themed ornaments online. If you would like some ideas on how to decorate your home Mexican-style, check out the examples below....

¡FELIZ NAVIDAD!

Read more about Latin American Culture

Here are some more articles I've written which may interest you. Click on a title to read more.

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    • Ghaelach 5 years ago

      Morning Marie.

      Now this is a nice hub. Very interesting and informative.

      We tend to forget about what happens and how Christmas is celebrated in other countries as we are to busy with our own activities.

      It's interesting that the festivities go on for so long in Mexico when you compare them to ours.

      What do we have?

      Maybe a works dinner, christmas eve in the church, christmas day, boxing day, new years eve and then it's all forgotten.

      Yes there is the visits and gift giving and the crib with the baby and the three wise men, but what i mean is, it's all squashed into a few days with hardly any time to appreciate what it's all about.

      Lovely hub.

      Take care Marie and have a nice sunday.

      LOL Ghaelach

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks Gaelach! I really enjoyed researching this hub, with help from a Mexican friend. They have a lot of fun in Mexico at Christmas - I can't wait to experience it directly some day!!

    • tia 5 years ago

      thank you very you help me get a on my homework

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 5 years ago from Ireland

      I'm glad I could help Tia. Congratulations on your 'a'!

    • hhunterr profile image

      hhunterr 5 years ago from Highway 24

      My sister married into a family with Hispanic heritage. This helps. Thanx!

    • cabmgmnt profile image

      Corey 4 years ago from Northfield, MA

      Nicely written hub. I enjoy seeing how other parts of the world celebrate Christmas and it is nice to see that we have picked up some of our traditions from Mexico. Buying a poinsetta during the holiday for one. Thanks for sharing.

    • Marie McKeown profile image
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      Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks Senora C!

    • Elizabeth Escobar 4 years ago

      Very informative, you helped summarize and provided other events that could be further researched on. Lots of help on the project I'm working on!

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

      I am glad to hear it Elizabeth!

    • Andy 4 years ago

      this helped me w/ my spanish log...it had all the info. i needed!!! its also nicely written. the best log ive gotten was this 1 with 120 points!!! YAY! :D

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

      Glad to have helped - feliz navidad!

    • Jeremy 4 years ago

      This helped my Spanish project a lot thanks!!

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

      You are welcome!

    • bob 4 years ago

      thanks very helpful on my project XD

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

      That's great - thanks for the feedback!

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 4 years ago from The High Seas

      My wife is Mexican so we both enjoyed this hub.

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

      I am glad you both enjoyed it!

    • FullOfLoveSites profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 4 years ago from United States

      It's also great to know the Christmas traditions from other countries. Enjoyable to read. :)

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

      Glad to know you enjoyed it. I also have hubs about Irish Christmas traditions and Eastern Orthodox traditions if you are interested...

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 4 years ago from USA

      Wow, I learned a lot from this hub! Thank you for writing this:)

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks for the feedback!

    • NATHAN A PATETRSON 4 years ago

      thanks that will help me out on my project

    • Liz 4 years ago

      Our family wanted to do something different this year for Christmas, so we are having a Mexican Christmas, I have found lots of gread food ideas., and costume ideas and then just read your page here to help with conversation.. I have had a lot of fun and all our family has learned a lot doing research to make our day more authentic. Thanks for all the info.....

    • Marie McKeown profile image
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      Marie McKeown 4 years ago from Ireland

      I hope you enjoy your Mexican Christmas!

    • MADS 3 years ago

      This really helped us thank you! FELIZ NAVIDAD

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 3 years ago from Ireland

      Me alegro! (I'm glad)

    • people 2 years ago

      thanks this helped with my project

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      wow, mexican christmas is indeed different and the food, really unique!

    • Goldia 2 years ago from Illinois

      This is a nice Hub. I enjoy learning about other traditions.

      ¡FELIZ NAVIDAD!

    • james 13 months ago

      my sister is mexican

    • halee 13 months ago

      my ant is too

    • unvrso profile image

      Jose Juan Gutierrez 13 months ago from Mexico City

      Great hub! Me xican traditions are some great ways to forget those who brought them to America. I personally, like the breaking of piñatas and the meaning behind it.

    • Maria 11 months ago

      HI I love this website it is very helpful for my project

    • Marie McKeown profile image
      Author

      Marie McKeown 10 months ago from Ireland

      I'm glad it was helpful!

    • JaMari 7 weeks ago

      I love this hub it is very infomationol

    • FX1714 7 weeks ago

      I love this website

    • Beast mode 24 5 weeks ago

      I love website for projects. I live in Mexico.

    • Franky 5 weeks ago

      Mexico is so awesome I wish I can be their for christmas

    • KENDALL 4 weeks ago

      THANKS FOR THE HELP BECAUSE I WAS DOING SOMETHING FOR CLASS WE HAD TO DO A PROJECT ABOUT A COUNTRY TALKING HOW DO THEY CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS

    • Mr.Money10112 4 weeks ago

      this is so cool

    • tatianna sutton 2 weeks ago

      yea i liked the way you gave specific info on how chritmas is celebrated in mexico. you should make a book some day

    • Spencer Hastings 9 days ago

      Hey,This is really good stuff and as u know i was in the Netflix popular show Pretty Little Liars and my real name is not Spencer Hastings it is Troian Bellisario but enough about me i just wanted to say that this is really helpful because i am doing research on Hispanic Traditions and this is Really helpful and im really hopeeing for a A+ and i think this will give mme that THX!

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