Christmas in Mexico doesn’t reflect the romanticism associated with traditional images established by so many Christmas cards and movies —with their distinct Dickensian winter feel— but it’s every bit as atmospheric in its own way at Christmastime.
Christmas festivities in Mexico
Local Posadas —traditional Christmas parties— featuring candlelit processions and piñatas; festivals, special events, art and music, delicious seasonal food and drinks, Christmas carols —villancicos— dancing, and fireworks can be enjoyed this time of year across Mexico.
The Posadas begin on December 16th with the main event and special Christmas meal traditionally taken by most families on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. The 25th of December in Mexico is a day for relaxation —‘the ultimate Sunday’— as well as being a public holiday.
Many of the events leading-up to Christmas are aligned with certain religious festivals and church services that make them even more meaningful to those who behold Christmas as more than just an indulgent holiday.
A fusion of styles and cultures
As with so many things in Mexico, Christmas festivities here celebrate a fusion of cultures and traditional celebrations that nonetheless retain a strong Mexican style and flair. Amidst the festivities, the underlying feeling of peace and tranquility, and a time for being with those you care about most is the same in Mexico as everywhere else that Christmas is celebrated.
In places where it never snows, the backdrop will never meet the ‘snow drops and sleigh bells’ imagery that’s so often shared on Christmas cards, but that doesn’t prevent Mexican families from enjoying decorations that include snow scenes on their window panes and snowmen dolls smiling in their sun-drenched patios and gardens.
Shopping for Christmas in Mexico
Frenzied festive shopping trends are now common in Mexico’s big towns and cities at Christmas, so if you plan to ‘whisk across town’ in the capital, be aware that Mexico City’s streets, especially those near and around retail centers, can become virtually grid-locked on the run-up to Christmas Eve as people play-out the infamous ‘last minute rush.’ Christmas in Mexico tends to become more traditional and intimate the further away you are from its urban centers, but it’s wise to plan your shopping needs in advance and avoid shops and markets altogether on the 23rd and 24th, if you can.
Traditional meals and beverages
Christmas in Mexico features its own dishes, some homegrown and some adopted, to make sure no one goes hungry at the festive gatherings.
The main Christmas meal is traditionally taken as a supper on the evening of December 24th, with family and friends arriving for the famous left-overs —recalentados— on the afternoon of the 25th. Some foreign residents keep to their home country traditions and host their main Christmas meal on the afternoon of the 25th, taking a light supper on the 24th, instead.
Turkey and ham are often served; although the most sought-after dishes this time of year are bacalao and romeritos. For liquid refreshment, sidra (apple cider), and rompope (eggnog) are the traditional beverages served with Christmas meals, although wine and an assortment of spirits may also be offered by hosts.
Gift exchange traditions
In modern-day Mexico, gifts are often exchanged on the night of the 24th of December, although traditionally presents in Mexico are exchanged on Kings’ Day—January 6th. This is also the day when the delicious “Rosca de Reyes” (Kings’ Loaf) is served: a doughnut-shaped cake into which several small plastic doll figurines are baked; whoever is served a slice containing a doll does, by tradition, host a party and serves tamales at their home on February 2nd, Dia de la Candelaria, Candlemas. Each rosca contains several dolls baked in with the dough, usually at least three, and the larger the size of the loaf, the more chances you have to be ‘nominated’ as a party host in February.
A special time for visitors and residents in Mexico
People who visit Mexico this time of year enjoy getting away from their usual surroundings and absorbing an alternative Christmas experience: many people who have visited Mexico at Christmas at least once before are drawn back time and again to the special magic that Mexico offers this time of year, and to enjoy the unusual in celebrations that nonetheless feel quite familiar.
For those who live in Mexico, Christmas remains a very special time of year when friends, family, festivals, and local traditions fuse together to create an enjoyable atmosphere that is uniquely Mexican in its approach and style. Some foreign residents travel to spend Christmas and New Year with their families abroad; and some years their families come to visit them in Mexico, and experience the wonders of a Christmas holiday in ways that only Mexico can offer.
After the Christmas meals and leftovers have been enjoyed and gifts unwrapped, people take a breather and begin to prepare for their New Year celebrations.
Wherever you are this holiday season, we wish you a tranquil Christmas holiday filled with joy—and a New Year filled with good tidings and abundance!
Learn more about Christmas traditions in Mexico
Mexperience helps you to discover Christmas traditions in Mexico and enjoy all the country offers during this important festive period:
- Learn about preparing for Christmas and New Year in Mexico
- Dia de Guadalupe heralds the start of the end-of-year festivities in Mexico.
- Posadas Navideñas are an integral and essential part of Christmas traditions in Mexico.
- Enjoying Mexican party foods at Christmastime
- Colorful piñatas are an essential component of every Christmas party in Mexico.
- How the New Year is traditionally welcomed in Mexico.
- Kings’ Day gifts, delicious loaf, and the baby doll that determines who hosts the tamales party in February.
- Learn all about Christmas in Mexico on our feature section.
Mexico in your inbox
Our free newsletter about Mexico brings you a monthly round-up of recently published stories and opportunities, as well as gems from our archives.