Christmas in Mexico is huge. Not only have Mexicans taken on the customs and culture of the United States more and more over the years with images of Santa Claus and snow-covered Christmas trees prevelant throughout Mexico, but they also hold true to a host of rich cultural traditions. A Mexican Christmas is still largely a religious holiday and much less commercialized than that of neighboring United States and Canada.
What to Expect of a Mexican Christmas
If you decide to visit Mexico during Christmas, you will see large trees in the plazas, lights adorning the streets and Christmas foods in the markets. The big difference between Mexico and other countries is that they celebrate Christmas on the eve of the 24th and not the day of the 25th. Traditionally families will gather for the last ‘posada’ or meal in the house of a family member. There will be traditional foods and drink and the party will last into the small hours of the 25th. Gifts will be exchanged but not in the same amount as you may expect in the United States, Canada or UK. This time is more for family and friends to unite and celebrate the holiday. Children will be the ones who receive the most gifts however they still expect to receive more from the Three Kings in January.
The Three Kings / Three Wise Men
The Three Kings Day or Los tres Magos is a traditional holiday that takes place on the 6th January: ‘Dia de Reyes’ ‘the day of the kings’. This day is still considered as part of a Mexican Christmas and commemorates the end of the 12 days of Christmas and the journey the three wise men made to visit Jesus. Children in particular look forward to this day as this is traditionally the day they will receive gifts rather than on Christmas day. Children will leave their shoes outside of their door for the kings to place gifts nearby. Although some families have now adopted more western traditions at Christmas, Día de Reyes is still the more favoured holiday for children.
Rosca de Reyes
Aside from the gift giving there is also an extremely traditional delicacy that is shared on this day that marks the end of a Mexican Christmas. The Rosca de Reyes is a sweet bread shaped like a garland to symbolise the kings’ crowns. Tiny ceramic baby Jesus dolls are place randomly inside the bread. Yet another excuse for a party, the family must guess which part has a baby and hope that they have it in their particular slice when they cut the bread. The person or persons who find the baby Jesus are traditionally supposed to host a party on February 2nd for the ‘Dia de Candelaria’ or ‘Candlemas Day’ where they will invite the same guests to eat Tamales.
If you are visiting Mexico for Christmas it’s fun to embrace some of the traditions and perhaps buy a Rosca de Reyes with your family or have a party on Christmas eve and do it the Mexican way. It is different but when holidaying in a country over the festive holidays It can be fun to embrace the culture and its traditions.