Christmas in Mexico

What is Christmas Like in Mexico?

Do you ever wish you could escape the cold, snowy holiday season here in Utah and venture off to somewhere warmer like Mexico? The Christmas season in Mexico is one of the most festive and beautiful things that anyone could ever experience. Celebrations start in early December and continue into early January with a related holiday capping off the season in February.

In the United States, commercialism launches the season on November 1st and there may be a party or two to attend during the season, but the real celebrations typically only take place on December 24th and 25th. In contrast, Mexico has purposeful events marking the different phases of the season—making it last for over a month! Keep reading to learn more about these celebrations.

Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe—December 3-12

Virgin of Guadalupe
For nine days leading up to December 12, most of Mexico joins together for a novena. This is a nine-day religious celebration of the Virgin Mary’s miraculous appearance to Juan Diego in 1531. The novena is spent honoring her through prayer. The final day of the novena ends with feasting on tamales and hot chocolate.

Las Posadas—December 16-24

a man and a woman singing Mexican Christmas carols

Meaning “inns” and “shelters” in English, Las Posadas is one of the more important parts of the traditional Mexican Christmas celebrations. It resembles the Bible story of Mary and Joseph who went from inn to inn searching for a safe place where Mary could deliver the baby Jesus. Today, this search for refuge is celebrated all over Mexico with candle-lit processions and carols. One traditional song even acts out the Nativity scene where Mary and Joseph beg for shelter and aren’t let in until the one innkeeper takes pity on them. Posadas are typically held at a community member’s house. Partygoers arrive singing a song about seeking shelter and the people inside respond in kind, singing a song of rejection. This goes on and on until the host of the house lets everyone in.

Noche Buena & Misa de Gallo—December 24

Catholic mass candles

Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena, is one of the biggest celebration days in Mexico. Families spend it together and often attend the final posada. The evening meal is the biggest feast of the season with delicious traditional dishes like pozole, roast turkey, tamales, and fried pastries. Many people choose to end the day by attending a Misa de Gallo—Mass of the Rooster—which is a midnight religious service honoring the legend that says that the only time a rooster has crowed at midnight was when Jesus Christ was born.

Christmas Day—December 25

feliz navidad

Because Noche Buena is a long day of celebration, many people spend Christmas Day as a day of rest. They enjoy their gifts, watch movies, and spend quality down time with their families. Because receiving gifts from Santa Claus is a more modern custom, many children will wait until Three Kings’ Day to open gifts.

Los Santos Inocentes—December 28

Mexican baby boy

The Day of the Innocent Saints is a day where people remember the babies killed by King Herod as he tried to hunt down the baby Jesus. Despite solemn origins, it is the celebratory equivalent of April Fools Day in the US. The day is about festivity and humor with pranksters pulling practical jokes, or inocentadas.

Three Kings’ Day—January 6

the three wisemen and their names

This is the day that every child looks forward to. It honors the arrival of the Magi or los Reyes Magos who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. According to tradition, their names are Melchor, Baltasar, and Gaspar. It is also the day that children traditionally receive gifts from the Magi—some children to receive gifts from Santa Claus on Christmas Day, but that is considered to be an imported custom.

Candlemas—February 2

Niño Dios in Mexico

Candlemas, or Día de la Candelaria, is a special day symbolizing 40 days after the birth of Jesus. According to ancient Jewish custom, women would take their children to the temple 40 days after giving birth, and so it is supposed that Mary would have done the same. In Mexico, this day is honored by dressing up figurines of the Christ Child, Niño Dios, and taking them to the church to be blessed. Families will often get together and celebrate together with good food. In some areas of Mexico, there are parades and even bull fights.

Celebrate Like You’re in Mexico!

Mexican piñata

You might not be able to catch the next flight to Mexico, but you can make the drive on over to Blue Iguana in downtown Salt Lake City. We’ll be celebrating the holiday season the entire month of December. Come enjoy authentic holiday treats like tamales, pozole (weekends only), huevos divorciados, and sopapillas served with Mexican hot chocolate. To make a reservation, call us at 801-533-8900. ¡Feliz Navidad!

Interested in Learning About Other Mexican Holdiays?

Make sure to check out our blog on the Day of the Dead!

The Beautiful Traditions of Mexico’s Day of the Dead

Día de los Muertos. The Day of the Dead. It is one of the most beautiful Mexican holidays and is celebrated October 31st to November 2nd. From an outsider’s point of view it might look like Halloween but don’t confuse the two! It’s a special holiday and some might even call it sacred. If you’ve watched Disney Pixar’s Coco™ then you know that the holiday has one central theme: family—it’s important to remember your loved ones who have passed on and the heritage you have because of them. Don’t grieve, celebrate!

Although some may argue about whether or not the holiday was accurately depicted in Coco ™, the movie did incorporate many of the unique traditions of Día de los Muertos. At Blue Iguana, we love and celebrate this very special day. Here, we will expand on some of those traditions as well as some not found in the movie and that you may not have heard of until now.

1. Altars for the Deceased

day of the dead altar

It is true that a good portion of the people of Mexico are religious (in 2014, 81% of the population identified as Catholic), but don’t mistake this tradition as worshipping the dead. However, faith does play a part in some of the symbolism involved. Families create these altars to put ofrendas (offerings) to help them honor the memory of their ancestors and to guide their souls on their journey back to the world of the living. These are just some of the ofrendas typically found on an altar.

Papel Picado

papel picado, day of the dead tradition

Papel picado is basically colorful tissue paper that has shapes or designs cut out of it. You’ve probably seen these displayed in many Mexican restaurants. These aren’t exclusive to Día de los Muertos but are often placed on the altars to represent how fragile life is.

Family Pictures

When we look at pictures of those who have moved on from this life it brings back memories of them. We’ll see their smiles and remember their laughter—maybe a joke they once told or something funny they did during their lifetime.

Mexican Marigolds

In Mexico, you’ll see gravesites and altars covered with majestic marigold petals. They’re meant to help guide loved ones back to their place of rest.

A Candle for Each Relative

A candle is lit for every family member who is being represented on the altar to help guide them back home.

Salt & Water

These items are meant to quench the thirst of the deceased’s soul after their long journey.

Copal Incense

copal incense, day of the dead tradition

Made from tree resin, copal incense is used to purify the area around the altar. It is thought that the smoke from the incense helps people communicate with their deceased family members.

Personal Possessions

Personal possessions of the dead are often placed on the altar as well. These are items, like clothing or musical instruments, that an individual was fond of during their lifetime. If the person was a child when they passed, small toys are put on the altar.

Food

What holiday would be complete without food? Día de los Muertos certainly wouldn’t be! Traditional food items as well as the family member’s favorite meals are placed on the altar.

And speaking of food…

2. Food Offerings

Day of the Dead altar offerings

Preparing food for the altar can be a big event. Some families see it as a time to come together in the kitchen and bond over good conversation and cooking. Sometimes, the older generations will use this as an opportunity to show the younger family members how to prepare the meals. These are some foods that are commonly put on altars and later eaten by the living members of the family (souls can only smell!).

Pan de Muerto

bread of the dead, day of the dead tradition

Bread of the Dead. This is a sweet bread that has bones and skulls featured on it. Sometimes it’ll be made with a circular design, symbolizing the circle of life.

Sugar Skulls

sugar skull, day of the dead tradition

Probably one of the most iconic Day of the Dead traditions, sugar skulls can be made by pressing a granulated white sugar mixture into a special mold. Icing is then used to decorate faces on them.

Mole

meixcan mole dish, day of the dead tradition

Pronounced like “mole-eh”, it is a sauce used in many traditional Mexican dishes. There are many different kinds. One of the more popular types is made with chocolate—like our Mole Negro (black Mole).

Tamales

tamales, day of the dead tradition

One very popular food during Día de los Muertos is tamales. They are made from masa, a dough made from corn flour, that is spread on a cornhusk. Meat, typically chicken or beef, is added and then the husk is closed and tied up for cooking.

Hot Chocolate

Mexican hot chocolate, day of the dead tradition

True Mexican hot chocolate is not like the powder packet stuff most of us are used to. It usually is made from whole milk, chocolate, cinnamon, and ground chile.

Feeling hungry yet? We have one more tradition to share with you and then you can grab a bite to eat.

3. La Catrina

Woman in La Catrina costume, Day of the Dead tradition

When you think of Day of the Dead, you probably think of people painting their faces like skeletons. However, it’s much more than that!

Who is Catrina

In the early 1900s, there was a lot of political tension between the rich and poor of Mexico. José Guadalupe Posada, an illustrator, created Catrina in a satirical attempt to make fun of the upper class, especially native Mexicans who were becoming too European-like. He drew her to be a skeletal woman in a long dress with fancy hat and a crown of flowers on her head. The people loved Posada’s creation and she was called the Lady of the Dead, a reference to the ancient deity and goddess of the ancient Aztec version of the Day of the Dead.

Over the last century she has become a very recognizable symbol of the holiday as people all over Mexico paint their faces in honor of her. Women will try to mirror the typical Catrina image while men will paint their faces and wear suits. There are even parades where everyone dresses up in Catrina attire.

If you’re at Blue Iguana during the Day of the Dead, some of our staff might have their faces painted in her honor too!

Celebrate Día de los Muertos at Blue Iguana!

¡Ven! Come, let us show you the many flavors of Mexico. Bring your family and feast on fajitas while enjoying the mariachi music. Or bring your friends to try the margaritas and enjoy our chef’s molcajete (his signature dish!). We can’t wait to celebrate the Day of the Dead with you! To make a reservation, call Blue Iguana today.

Holiday 2016 Hours of Operation

CHRISTMAS EVE THROUGH NEW YEAR’S DAY

In an attempt to keep things simple on our end and to keep our patrons informed, we have chosen to promote our Holiday 2016 hours via the following page. Below you’ll find a brief highlight for each location as well as that location’s hours for the 2016 Holiday season. Please join us!
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We’ll be adding new posts soon!