Christmas is a famous celebration in the Western Hemisphere. Even if they don’t celebrate it in your country, you might have heard about it on TV, movies, or the internet. The U.S. is particularly famous for this celebration, but does its southern neighbor celebrate it? If so, how do they celebrate Christmas in Mexico?

If you’re curious about this subject, here you will learn a little more about it. What do they eat? What do they do? Who do they spend it with? Is it a big deal in Mexico? How is it different from Christmas in the U.S. or other western countries? Let’s learn more about it, shall we?

Is It a National Holiday?

Glass of ponche with cane sugar.Yes, it is. The 25th, that is. Some companies give their employees both the 24th and 25th, but that’s not the norm. Others have their employees work half a day on the 24th and leave early, but that only applies to office employees for the most part. In very rare cases, some companies close for a full week, but they’re only a minority. Most companies only close on the 25th and resume activities the following day.

Many companies throw a Christmas party (wrongfully called posada…we will explain more about it in the section below) with live music, food, and raffles. Prizes include TVs, stereos, cell phones, and other electronics. This, of course, depends on the company. Large companies are more generous than smaller ones generally speaking.

Posadas

Posadas have lost their original meaning in our days. Many people think they’re just Christmas parties, but that’s not the case. Posadas have a religious background and have to do with the birth of Jesus.

Before going any further, we have to explain the term to have a better understanding. The word posadas has different meanings, but in this context, we can translate it as inns or lodging. According to the Bible, Mary and Joseph had a hard time finding lodging when they visited Bethlehem. That’s why we call this celebration posadas.

Posadas start on December 16th and end on the 24th, exactly on Christmas Eve. This period is called Novenario (nine days).

During each posada, a little kid is dressed up as an angel leading a procession. This procession visits selected homes to find lodging for Mary and Joseph. At each stop, they read passages of the Scripture and sing Christmas carols. People are given some refreshments but are ultimately turned away, so they have to continue their journey.

At the end of each procession, Mass is held. Once the service is over, children break star-shaped piñatas filled with candy and/or money.

This goes on for nine days until they finally find a host on the 24th. That’s when Jesus is born, and they lay him in a manger.

How Do Mexicans Decorate Their Homes?

This is no different from American homes. Mexicans set up a Christmas tree each year, usually in early December. The tree is decorated with spheres, lights, and other ornaments.

Outside their homes, Mexicans set up lighted decorations of different types and sizes. Inflatables have become quite popular and include characters like Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, gingerbread men, among others.

The only difference I can think of between American and Mexican homes when it comes to Christmas decorations is the nacimiento. This is the physical representation of the birth of Jesus. However, you will not find it in all Mexican homes. Only devout Catholics set up this kind of decoration.

Figures representing the birth of Jesus.
Nacimiento

How Do They Celebrate It?

Christmas in Mexico is mostly a family celebration. Families usually gather together at the grandmother’s house. In many cases, this is the only time of the year that all the members of the family see each other. Many Mexicans, especially those living in the U.S., cross the border to see their loved ones during this season.

As to what they do that day, it depends on the family. Some families play board games, while others watch movies or sing karaoke. The little ones play and run around the house, while adults finish the preparations for dinner or drink some wine or beer while engaging in an interesting conversation. It’s all about the family.

We usually exchange our presents on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. Some families wait for the clock to strike midnight to do this, but it’s not a requirement.

Devout Catholics attend Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s/Shepherds’ Mass) around midnight, although I would say this is more common in small towns and villages rather than big cities.

What Do They Eat?

A plate of tamales.
Tamales

Again, this depends on the family and where it is from. For instance, families in Monterrey or other northern cities are heavily influenced by American culture. The cuisine is no exception.

Turkey is one of the most common dishes. Sides include mashed potatoes, spaghetti, salads, etc.

Another common dish is the pierna mechada (a roasted pork leg). This dish is more on the sweet side and includes almonds, pineapple, raisins, and cherries.

A lot of Mexican families also make or buy tamales for this day. These are stuffed with shredded beef, chicken, cheese, or beans and are served with charro beans. Mexican food at its finest!

For dessert how about arroz con leche (rice pudding), ensalada de manzana (apples with cream), or buñuelos (fried dough covered in cinnamon sugar)?



Importance of Christmas

Even though Christmas has religious origins, most Mexicans celebrate it in some way or another, whether they’re Catholic or not. This is one of the few opportunities when families can get together in many cases. Christmas is heavily family-oriented.

Most businesses are closed that day. However, tourist destinations like Cancun are the exception. Many, if not most, attractions and businesses there are open to receive visitors.

If you would like to spend Christmas in Mexico, there are many destinations you could choose from. I highly recommend small towns like Pátzcuaro, but there are many others you could visit as well.

Conclusion

There you have it. Now you know a little more about how they celebrate Christmas in Mexico. As you can see, the celebration has evolved over the centuries, but it refuses to disappear.

Have you spent Christmas in Mexico? What differences did you see between the celebrations there and the ones in your country? If you haven’t visited Mexico yet, just be aware that Christmas falls within the high season, so flights and hotels are a little more expensive than usual, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. In fact, I’d recommend you visit during this season at least once. I’m sure you’ll love it.

Well, folks, that’s all for today. I hope you found this useful. As always, feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below. Bon voyage!

4 Replies to “How Do They Celebrate Christmas in Mexico?”

  1. Hello there! This is an interesting post! I never quite knew exactly how the Hispanic culture celebrated Christmas. I did not realize when it comes to Christmas, it is quite similar to the Asian culture where it is more about family gathering time to really just spend time with food, games, and just about anything fun (karaoke, movie, etc.). I knew before but had forgotten about the tamales as being a food during this time. Those are one of my favorite foods to eat. Thanks for this informative post!

    1. Hey, Mike,

      It’s interesting to hear about the similarities between Hispanic and Asian cultures in this regard. For instance, I know karaoke is very popular in Japan, but honestly, I don’t know about the rest.

      Glad to hear you like tamales! You have to try them in Mexico. You’ll love them.

      Thank you for commenting.

  2. Hi Enrique and thanks for that lovely introduction to customs from Mexico. I know how some countries celebrate Christmas, and there are variations in many places around the world. I was fascinated to see how important the 9 days leading up to Christmas are in Mexico. Some of us skip over that part of the Christmas Story. I’m sure Mary and Joseph were glad to celebrate when they finally found lodging! Thanks for posting that particular video in your blog. It was self explanatory even if it was not in English!

    All the best!

    Carolyn

    1. Hi, Carolyn,

      Glad you found this useful. That’s the point 🙂

      Yes, Christmas is an important celebration in Mexico, but it’s not just about the presents and partying. Many people celebrate Jesus’ birth and remember it with the posadas.

      Thanks for commenting. Feel free to check out my other posts for more info about Mexico.

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