Winter celebrations in Mexico

mexico flagThe end of the year is a special time for holidays around the world, the most commonly celebrated one being Christmas which, in most countries, is celebrated in the same way. In Mexico, many other festivities are also commemorated, among which only a few are listed below.

By the end of October and all throughout the first days of November, Mexico is painted in orange and purple, among other colors: November 1st is the famous Día de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead (the Mexican equivalent for Halloween). On this day, and especially during the night, the tradition is to offer, as a gift to late loved ones, what they liked the most, since it is the day on which they can come to visit the living. It is a way of celebrating both their lives and death, in order not to perceive it as a fatal and brutal phenomenon, but rather as just another part of life. During that time of the year, the beautiful orange flower called Cempazuchitl (marigold) is in full bloom around every corner; flowers are a reminder of how their scent helps the dead find their way back to earth for one day in order to visit their relatives. Houses are adorned with papel picado (literally peckered paper), a decorative craft made out of paper cut into elaborate designs. Following the custom, all of the late people’s appreciated object and foods are spread on a pedestal or a table; one may find there tequila, bread, tacos, and countless other goods. Finally, the very sweet pan de muertos (bread of the dead) is baked for others to share, usually shaped as a skull and bearing the loved one’s name. This holiday unites people and families, but is above all a mirthful celebration of life—especially for children, who are allowed to go out on the streets at night, all dressed up in harlequin costumes.

The second major winter holiday in Mexico is celebrated on December 12th, or the day on which the Virgin of Guadalupe is said to have come down from heaven and talked to a humble man. According to the story linked to this celebration, she appeared on a hill outside of Mexico City in 1531, ten years after the Spanish Conquest, and was to become “the first Mexican”, bringing people of various cultural heritages together while still affirming their distinctness. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe became the recognized symbol of Catholic Mexicans; therefore, on December 12th, Catholics go to the Basilica, the church built in her honor, in order to do a pilgrimage. Images of this deity are displayed and circulated all over the city by believers—this event is yet another one which brings Mexican people together.

One last important festivity is held on January 6th, the day on which, in Catholic history,  the Three Kings carried their gifts to the newborn Jesus. They may be considered as the Mexican or, more loosely, Hispanic equivalent for Santa Claus, since children are told they receive gifts from them on the night of the 5th. The most common way of celebrating this day is by eating a rosca de reyes (king’s ring), a delicious pastry garnished with figs, quinces, cherries, or other dried and candied fruits. On the 5th, children write letters in which they ask for their gifts, and tie them to balloons which are then thrown into the air, in hopes that the Three Kings will catch them—the 3 stars in the night sky which form a line are said to be the Three twinkling Kings.

These holidays serve as a means to reunite the people and families of Mexico around similar beliefs and ancestral traditions.

by Wendy T.