The Space for Expatriates
MEXICO'S TRADITIONS and CELEBRATIONS
Three Kings' Day (Dia de los Santos Reyes) is celebrated in January and is the Feast of the Epiphany. This day recalls the arrival in Bethlehem of the three wise men (reyes magos) each bearing a gift for the baby Jesus. This is the day of traditional gift-giving for children in Mexico. Rosca de Reyes, a crown-shaped sweet bread is decorated with candied fruits and has a small doll baked inside. This bread is served on this day. Whoever is served their slice of bread with the doll inside must then host a party in early February, Candlemas Day, offering tamales and a drink called atole to all of the guests. This is a hot, sweet drink thickened with corn flour.
Holy Week (Semana Santa) is celebrated nationwide beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter Sunday, the week's religious celebrations include reenactments of the events leading up to Christ's crucifixion in many of the cities of Mexico. Some draw hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The Spring Equinox (Equinoccio de la Primavera) in Chichen-Itza, Yucatan draws thousands of people from around the world. They gather at this Mayan ruin on the Yucatan peninsula to watch the afternoon shadow of the snake-god Kukulcan slowly crawl down the country's largest Mayan pyramid, El Castillo. Near Cuernavaca, in Xochicalco, there is also a gathering of people to celebrate the equinox. This is also repeated in September for the Fall equinox.
In April, there is the Cuernavaca Flower Fair (Feria de la Flor). This fair fills Cuernavaca's streets with flower booths and gardening display and competitions. In the evening, people gather in the main plaza for a laser light show. If you are here during that time you should consider paying a visit to the Borda Gardens, described elsewhere in this book.
Also, usually in April, but in Mexico City not Cuernavaca, is the Annual Mexico City Festival (Festival del Centro Historico. This festival is considered one of Latin America’s best celebration of art and culture. It lasts for two weeks and includes, theater, art exhibits, dance productions, opera, concerts, food fare and more. Over a million local and international visitors come to Mexico City for this festival. Proceeds go to the restoration of art and architecture of the downtown historic area of Mexico City.
Mexican Independence Day (Dia de la Independencia Mexicana)is celebrated nationwide to commemorate its declaration of independence from Spain in the year of 1810. The night of September 15, marks "El Grito," a dramatic reenactment of revolutionary Father Hidalgo's call for his fellow Mexicans to join the uprising, which takes place at city halls across the country. The most spectacular “El Grito” is held in Mexico City and usually it is the country’s president who comes out on a balcony at the Mexico City zocalo and does the shout. This is followed on nationwide tv as well as witnessed live by 500,000 people in the zocalo. On September 16, military parades are held in many Mexican cities.
Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is another nationwide celebration. This annual festival commemorates the departed loved ones. During this festival, the dead have “divine” permission to visit friends and relatives on earth. The living welcome the souls of the departed with offerings of their favorite foods and drinks, as well as marigold flowers and candles.
The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Fiesta de la Virgin de Guadalupe) is also a nationwide holiday. This day in December is the most important holiday in Mexico. Literally, millions of pilgrims converge in the Mexico City Basilica of the country’s patron saint in order to pay tribute. The square in front of the Mexico City Basilica is a stage for singing, dancing and celebration.
Posadas are held throughout the country during the days preceeding Christmas. These are processions recreating Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem. People holding candles go door-to-door to seek shelter. Festivities include piñatas, Christmas caroling and special foods and sweets.
And for the ringing in of the new year, tradition calls for eating twelve grapes, one with each stroke of the chiming bell at midnight, for luck during the next 12 months.
In my years here in Mexico, a celebration that seems to tug at the hearts of all is Mother’s Day. Mothers are revered especially by the sons in the family and this day fills the restaurants, empties the flower shops and fills the air with fireworks.