36 Wonderful Mexican Traditions & Holidays in Mexico to Know

If you have spent any amount of time in Mexico, you will recognize that this is a country steeped in culture, traditions, and unique holidays that are not celebrated anywhere else in the world. Many Mexican traditions have pre-Hispanic roots and date back hundreds/thousands of years. 

Since Mexico is such a vast country made up of so many different indigenous groups, some practices and traditions are unique to certain states or certain parts of the country. I have been living here in Mexico for several years now, and in this post, we will look at some of the most famous or distinctive Mexican traditions and holidays. 

Important Mexican traditions
The historic center of Campeche City, Campeche state

36 Amazing Mexican Traditions to Know

The Burning of the Old Year 

If you find yourself in the Yucatan state on New Year’s Eve, you will see countless street vendors selling little piñatas in the form of cute old men. These are bought to be burned at midnight to represent the end of the old year and the start of the new one. 

Sometimes, they are filled with fireworks and you will see a huge one made and set alight in the beachside town of Progreso. (My partner and I bought one in Merida last year with the plan to join in the traditions but we felt bad to burn him, named him Juan, and now we will probably have this strange old man piñata in storage for the next 7 years!)

Our Rosca de Reyes bread

Three King’s Day (Dia de Los Reyes) 

Three King’s Day falls on the 6th of January in Mexico and commemorates the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus. (In Catholic communities around Europe and other parts of the world it is also known as “epiphany”).

In some parts of Mexico, children open their Christmas gifts on the 25th of December whereas in others, they exchange gifts on Dia de Los Reyes. Traditional food is enjoyed on this day, like black beans and rice, delicious soups, and slow-cooked chicken or pork. 

The star of the show though is the “Rosca de Reyes” cake which is a type of spiced sweet bread that tastes a little like fruit cake. The bread is a bit of an acquired taste that many Mexicans and foreigners love, but others (myself included) loathe, but it’s worth a try at least once! 

The bread is usually topped with icing, glace cherries, and “camote dulces” which are traditional Mexican candies made by adding flavorings to sweet potatoes. People will usually enjoy the bread by dipping it in a hot cup of “chocolate abuelita” hot chocolate or atole. 

Best of all, there is always a little white plastic figurine hidden inside that represents the baby Jesus. Whoever finds it, has to cook for everyone at the table at the next family gathering. 

According to my Mexican partner, people often just swallow the whole figure so that they don’t have to cook! 

Experiencing a Callejoneada in Guanajuato City

Callejoneadas  

Callejoneadas are another Mexican tradition specific to Guanajuato, that are one of the most magical experiences you can have in the country. These “alley walks” are night tours through the backstreets, alleys, and passageways of Guanajuato City. 

As you explore you are led around by a group of men in traditional clothing known as “La Estudiantina” who take you through lesser-known parts of the city while singing Mexican folk music and telling stories. There are more than 10 different Callejoneada routes that you can do, and more than 3,500 alleys throughout the city. 

The tradition is hundreds of years old and the tours are inspired by the groups of Guanajuato University students who, during the 18th century, would entertain the miners en route to the mines by serenading them.

Dia de la Candelaria 

Dia de la Candelaria is a Catholic holiday that falls on the 2nd of February and marks exactly 40 days since Christmas. It is said that on this day, the Virgin Mary went to church, lit a candle, requested purification for giving birth outside of wedlock, and thanked God for giving her Jesus.

Whoever found the plastic figures in the rosca on Three Kings Day has to cook for everyone on this day. You are usually required to make tamales which are very, very labor intensive and can take literally dozens of hours. 

So, it is understandable as to why people are so averse to having to cook/willing to risk lodging a piece of plastic in their throats to avoid doing so!

Colorful piñatas for sale in Merida, Yucatan

Piñatas 

Even if you have never set foot in Mexico, you are probably very familiar with piñatas. These papier mache creations are made in all manner of weird and wonderful shapes, sizes, and figures. 

They are then filled with candy and other treats before being mounted high on the ceiling and beaten with a bat to release the candies. Any and every celebration in Mexico is an excuse to pull out a piñata – you will find them at birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, etc. 

Interestingly, the piñata was not invented here in Mexico, despite being the country most associated with them today. It is believed that the first iteration of piñatas were created in China and then the great explorer Marco Polo brought them to Italy in the 13th century. 

From there, the tradition spread to Spain and then finally to the “New World” of Mexico with the colonizers. 

The Quinceanera 

In the United States and other countries, many people celebrate a girl’s “sweet sixteenth” birthday. In Mexico, it is their fifteenth birthday or their “Quinceneara” which is seen to mark a girl becoming a woman. 

Since many Mexicans are Catholic, the festivities of the day usually start with attending mass at a local church. The girl might be given gifts like rosary beads and religious icons, clothes, makeup, and important family heirlooms/handed down gifts from her family. If the family has money, they may throw a grand party. 

Quinceneara dresses are essentially princess-style ballgowns – with poofy skirts, sequins, glitter, and brightly colored fabric. The dress is often paired with sparkly tiaras, jewelry, high heels, and lots of makeup. 

The Quinceanera may also have a date who is expected to dress to impress and wear a tuxedo.

The celebration often commences with a dance between the Quinceanera and her father, followed by a waltz with her suitor.

Mexican traditions
A trio performing to breakfast diners at Hacienda Santa Cruz, Yucatan

Mexican Street Performers 

Mexican street performers represent a rapidly declining tradition, but a beautiful one. These are singers, guitarists, and other musicians who wander through the streets of residential neighborhoods singing and serenading the residents. 

They accept requests if you have any Mexican songs that you love and want to hear, and you are typically supposed to throw a couple of coins from the window.

Guanajuato City prepares for the Cervantino Fest in 2023

The Cervantino Festival 

The annual Cervantino festival takes place in Guanajuato City every October. It is now the largest art and culture festival in Latin America and sees musicians, artists, and creatives from across the world head to Guanajuato to perform or showcase their exhibitions in historic venues around the city. Each year, specific countries or states are chosen as guests of honor and in 2023, there was a focus on culture and artists from Sonora, Northern Mexico, and the United States.

October 2024 will mark the 52nd anniversary of the festival. It dates back to 1953 when Enrique Ruelas, a professor at Guanajuato University started an event called “Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Hors D´oeuvres” where groups of students would perform music and theatrical plays in the plazas around town. 

Manda pilgrimages

If you ever happen to see a small procession where a group of Mexicans are traveling through a certain area by moto-taxi, bicycle, or motorbike with flags of the Virgin Mary affixed to their vehicles, you might be witnessing a manda. 

These people have prayed to the Virgin Mary to ask for a particular favor (commonly to ask for a sick family member to recover). To show their dedication and gratitude to the Virgin, they will embark on a long journey, often across huge distances across a state/several states.  

Dia de los Santos Inocentes 

December 28th marks the “Dia De Los Santos Inocentes” in Mexico which is essentially the Mexican April Fool’s Day. 

People tend to make jokes and pull pranks on each other, and if anyone delivers any “serious” news to you on this day, it is always better to sense-check that it isn’t part of some kind of joke or trick!

Watching the famous Mariachi Vargas live in Merida
Watching the famous Mariachi Vargas live in Merida

Mariachi Bands 

Mariachi bands are no doubt one of the most famous and best-loved of all Mexican traditions. These groups of musicians typically contain at least four people but can also contain as many as 12. 

Mariachi are easily recognized by their attire, their colorful wide-brimmed hats, and their style of music. You will find encounter many opportunities to experience a traditional Mariachi performance during your time in Mexico – at plazas that they frequent like “El Parian” in Tlaquepaque, or Piazza Garibaldi in Mexico City, or by booking seats at a show to see live mariachi. 

This style of music originated in the state of Jalisco in the 19th century. 19th century and are believed to have originated in the state of Jalisco. Nobody is quite sure what the word “mariachi” means and there are various theories about its linguistic roots.

The most common theory is that this was an indigenous word, likely part of a language used by the Cora Indians. “Mariachi” was the name of a tree that grew in Jalisco and it was the wood from this tree that was used to make the first mariachi instruments.

Mexican traditions: Dia de Los Muertos
Mexican traditions: Dia de Los Muertos

Dia De Los Muertos  

Dia De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is one of the most famous Mexican traditions and one that fascinates countless people internationally. The official dates of the holiday fall on the 1st and 2nd of November, although extended celebrations often go on for as long as 2-3 weeks.

Mexicans have a slightly different (and more refreshing) view of death and grief compared to people in other countries. This holiday is not morbid or macabre in any way and exists to honor the lives of loved ones who have passed away. (It is not the Mexican version of Halloween).

Mexican traditions
The Paseo de las Animas procession in Merida, Yucatan

History of the Day of the Dead

This tradition dates back over 3,000 years and it is believed that some form of Dia De Los Muertos celebrations has happened in the country evenbeforeo the Hispanic occupation. Indeed, the Aztecs and the Nahua people believed that upon dying, the deceased would travel to the land of the dead (Chicunamictlán). 

From here, they would have to complete nine levels of challenges to earn the right to reach Mictlán, the final resting place. The indigenous peoples would place the deceased’s favorite foods, water, and useful items on their graves to help them on their journey.  

This practice has been adapted to today’s Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. Locals will decorate the graves of their family members with offerings or they will place these offerings on a makeshift altar in their homes. 

Around the country, people attend all-day parties, dress up in Catrina makeup, decorate their homes, and attend parades. In the lead-up to Dia de Los Muertos, you will note many stores around the country selling sugar skulls, figurines, and other vibrant knick-knacks. These make great Mexico souvenirs from your trip

Mexican traditions

Where to Celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico

Celebrations and festivities for Dia De Los Muertos differ from one part of the country to another. In the Yucatan peninsula, locals celebrate Hanal Pixán – a regional variation of the Day of the Dead, with roots in Ancient Mayan culture.

Some of the best places to experience Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico in 2024 are:

  • Oaxaca City – the city hosts fun and impressive comparsas, carnival-style parades involving music, larger-than-life floats, dancing, and traditional costumes.

  • San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec, Oaxaca – Home to a unique rug-making contest

  • Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, Michoacan state – Contests are hosted to find the best-decorated grave and in Janitzio, fishermen perform dances from their boats. The movements are said to awaken the souls of the dead… 

  • Mexico City – A huge parade takes place through the center of CDMX and the tradition only started after a similar parade was featured in the James Bond movie “Spectre”
Mexican traditions: Visiting the charreria in Merida, Yucatan
Visiting the charreria in Merida, Yucatan

The Mexican Charrería 

The charreria is considered the “national sport” of Mexico and is essentially the Mexican answer to the US rodeo (although there are some differences as well as similarities). Since 2016, it has been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.  

It is believed that the sport was created from the equestrian games that the Spanish colonizers would play in the states of Jalisco and Hidalgo during the 16th century. The Spanish were tasked with raising horses and managing farms in “New” Spain and to pass the time while living in rural Mexico, they invented equestrian games and contests. 

Competitions were hosted between different haciendas but when the haciendas started to lose their importance and close down after the Mexican Revolution, the 1921 Asociación Nacional de Charros was developed to protect Mexican traditions surrounding the Charreria. 

Charrerias are particularly popular in Jalisco but you will find them hosted throughout the country and many are free to attend. Many men attend wearing traditional charro or vaquero (cowboy) clothing while women wear gorgeous embroidered skirts that flow down to their ankles.

Mexican traditions: papel picado
Mexican traditions: papel picado in Campeche zocalo

Papel Picado  

Creating and hanging papel picado is one of the most beautiful Mexican traditions that you will see all over the country. Papel Picado is colored pieces of tissue paper that are cut and crafted into different shapes and designs.

You will often find them hanging outside churches, but also in central squares, city streets, and outside of homes. They are used for decorations at celebrations such as christenings and weddings and the tradition is believed to have Aztec roots. 

Legend has it that thousands of years ago, the Aztecs would use mulberry and fig tree bark to make a paper called Amate. They would decorate the paper with scenes of daily life or historic events. 

Cinco de Mayo 

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is always seen as a great excuse to eat your bodyweight in tacos and drink copious amounts of beers and tequila so it may come as a surprise to hear that it isn’t celebrated much in Mexico at all. 

The holiday has mostly been commercialized by American beer companies. (Although we can still look at that positively as a day that celebrates Latin American heritage and culture!)

Officially, the date commemorates the anniversary of the Mexican army enjoying a victory over the French Empire in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. There are parades (desfiles) and parties in the Puebla capital of Puebla de Zaragoza, and there are plenty of things to do in Puebla to warrant a visit, especially for the occasion. 

Elsewhere in Mexico though, the holiday isn’t observed.

Mexican Bullfighting 

Bullfighting is one of the more controversial Mexican traditions and Mexico is one of the only countries in the world where this is still permitted. The practice has been illegalized twice in the country’s history but at the present moment, it is not illegal. 

The sport was introduced by Spanish conquistadors in Mexico some 500 years ago.

Bulls used in Mexican bullfighting are typically raised with the specific purpose of being used in bullfighting and they die in the ring. Most Mexicans do not approve of the continuation of this sport and its legality may be set to change going forward. 

Animal protection laws exist in some Mexican states but bulls are sadly not included in these.

Mexican traditions: Street food culture
Mexican traditions: Street food culture

Mexican street food culture 

Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture and you will find tianguis and street food stalls on virtually every corner of Mexican cities, even in random residential barrios.

People affectionately call light bites and fast food prepared on the street “antojitos” (“little cravings”). Elotes are a popular street food snack that you will find all over the country.

This is simply fresh corn on the cob grilled straight in front of you and topped with a generous serving of mayonnaise, cheese, chili powder, and lime. Sweet treats like crepes, churros, and marquesitas are also popular and there are a lot of regional varieties in the types of street food you can find.

Traditionally, you order your street food and stand and eat it by the stand from where you purchased it. You can easily find tacos and other snacks for as little as 20-40 pesos.

Watching the carnival celebrations in Progreso in February 2023
Watching the carnival celebrations in Progreso in February 2023

Carnival 

Carnival is one of the most exciting Mexican traditions celebrated around the country every February. It was introduced to the Mexicans by Spanish and Portuguese Conquistadors in the 15th century and the festivities are believed to have Pagan origin. 

More than 225 communities across the country celebrate it in various ways. 

Most Mexicans are Catholic and they celebrate the carnival as being the final time that they can indulge in carnal pleasures before giving up certain things for 40 days for lent.

Campeche City is the site of the oldest carnival celebrations in Mexico. Parades and festivities started here in 1582 and today, the celebrations in Campeche extend over a whopping three weeks. During this time, the boardwalk of this city is dressed in colors, decorations, and papel picado. 

A grand parade takes place and “comparsas” (singers and musicians) fill the streets. You will find carnival celebrations in every Mexican city from Mazatlan to Merida. 

The Veracruz city carnival is considered one of the best and is the second largest  in Latin America, second only to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil

Mexican traditions
A trio of singers rest between their sets at Hacienda Santa Cruz

Benito Juarez Day

Benito Juarez Day is celebrated on the third Monday of March every year in Mexico, in honor of the late, great Mexican president whose birthday fell on the 21st. Since the holiday means that people have a long weekend, many Mexicans will plan a short getaway vacation to various beach towns and resorts around the country at this time. 

If you are not familiar with Benito Juarez, he served as the president of Mexico from 1858 until he died in 1872. He was a Zapotec and the first Mexican president of indigenous origin but he is best known for supporting and leading the Mexican people through their quest for independence during the Mexican Revolution. 

You will find busts of Benito Juarez, as well as parks and plazas named after him all over the country. Celebrations take place across the country on this day, particularly in the city of  San Pablo Guelatao, where he was born. 

A small shrine in a Catholic chapel in Cacalchén
A small shrine in a Catholic chapel in Cacalchén

Semana Santa 

Semana Santa or “Holy week” is Easter in Mexico and it falls on the same dates as Easter in other Christian and Catholic countries. 

In 2024, Semana Santa will begin on Sunday, March 24th, and end on Sunday, March 31st. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the celebrations and in Mexico, this date is known as “Domingo de Ramos.”

On this day, many Mexican churches will decorate their interiors with palm fronds and locals will often cover their doors with them, believing that the palms will help to ward off evil.

Many Mexicans attend a Catholic mass on Holy Thursday – the date that Jesus and his disciples sat down to enjoy their last supper. After eating at the local church, they usually go on something of a “pilgrimage” to  7 other churches in the area. 

Many churches hand out bread as a mark of the Last Supper. On Good Friday, many towns and cities have processions reenacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

In the city of San Luis Potosi and other parts of the country, there is a procession of silence. Participants wear hoods of anonymity, walk barefoot, and carry crosses, chains, or other religious symbols. 

Traditions in Mexico: Mexican Independence Day
A flag flies above the Zocalo in Hunucma, Yucatan

Mexican Independence Day 

A lot of people mistakenly think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day but it is not. The real “Dia de Independencia” takes place on the 16th of September every year.

The holiday marks the country’s independence from Spain and the events that unfolded after Catholic Priest Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla shouted from the steps of the church in Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato state in 1810. Father Hidalgo made the first cry for independence and was so influential that his hometown was renamed after him.

(Dolores Hidalgo was originally just called “Dolores” but the town was renamed in his honor). He gained several followers for his cause – a ragtag group of people from different backgrounds who hoped for Mexican independence.

Sadly he was later defrocked from Priesthood and beheaded by the Spanish but he continues to be revered as a Mexican hero to this day.

Mexico would not gain independence from the Spanish until 1821. However, it is the bravery of Father Hidalgo and the others who spoke out, that is celebrated during Independence Day. 

Events with live music, dancing, and fireworks are hosted in many Mexican cities on Independence Day. Stalls pop up in every city selling Mexican flags, little sombreros, flashing hats, and other colorful items.

Many people will celebrate with their families and enjoy good food and beer. Chiles en nogada is a popular dish eaten on this holiday that is made in the colors of the Mexican flag. You will find it served in restaurants across the country in September and the dish consists of poblano chilis stuffed with picadillo, lathered in a walnut cream sauce, and topped with pomegranates.

The Grito de Independencia

One of the most notable “events” of Mexican Independence Day is the “Grito de Independencia” (shout of independence). At around 11 pm, the Mexican President will head out to the balcony of the Palacio Nacional and shout the famousGritoo.

Spectators in the crowd will yell “Viva!” after each sentence. After the official presidential shout which is also televised, mayors, government officials, and public figures will do the same grita from various city centers and balconies across Mexico.

Día Del Niño 

Día Del Niño is the Mexican observance of Children’s Day. This is a holiday that is celebrated in different forms and on different dates all over the world. 

It was established on December 14, 1954, by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN).In Mexico, it takes place on the 30th of April each year. 

Children still have to attend school on this day but there are no classes and teachers will prepare a day of games, movies, and fun activities for their students. Some parents give their children gifts and treat the Día Del Niño as a sort of mini-Christmas. 

Live musical performances and celebrations for Dia de la Madre in Comitan
Live musical performances and celebrations for Dia de la Madre in Comitan

Dia de la Madre 

Dia de la Madre is Mexican Mother’s Day. It is celebrated on the second Sunday of May each year and the premise is very similar to Mother’s Day in the US and elsewhere.

People take the day as an opportunity to show their appreciation to their mothers; they send gifts, buy flowers, and take their moms out for dinner. Dia de la Madre was only introduced in Mexico as recently as 1922, making it the first Latin American country to participate in the holiday. 

Mexican traditions
Mariachi performing at El Parian, Tlaquepaque

The Day of the Mariachi 

Not only are mariachi musicians an integral contributor to Mexican traditions in themselves but there is also a designated day that celebrates them. The Day of the Mariachi takes place every year on the 22nd of November.

Santa Cecilia is the Mexican patron saint of musicians and this is essentially her day. Hundreds of Mariachi musicians gather in the central square of Mexico City and walk in a procession to attend mass at La Basilica de Guadalupe.

Fiestas 

Fiestas are simply Mexican parties and if you spend any amount of time in Mexico, you will quickly discover that the locals don’t need much of an excuse to organize a gathering.

You can be walking down a residential street on a random Tuesday and hear banda music and reggaeton blaring out from someone’s yard. While it is not a uniquely Mexican thing to host parties to celebrate certain occasions and life events, the Mexican way of doing this is unique.

Someone will always lay out a large spread of snack foods like durros, esquites, elotes, and meat and cheese platters. There’s a lot of music and dancing, with mariachi bands often being hired for the occasion.

A party can go on all through the day and the night. Sometimes fireworks and firecrackers are set off just because. 

Siestas 

The sheer mention of a siesta likely conjures up images of a Mexican snoozing beneath a sombrero. The siesta is an afternoon nap and a perfect way to rest and rejuvenate after lunch in a hot country.

However, due to very long working hours, very few Mexicans get to enjoy them anymore. Mexican siestas used to be incorporated into people’s days but the government abolished them in 1944. 

The Mexican Hat Dance 

The Mexican hat dance, also known as Jarabe Tapatío is the national dance of Mexico. It originated in Guadalajara in the 19th century and was seen as a courtship ritual.

Typically, two dancers: one male and one female, perform the dance. The moves symbolize the man inviting the woman out to date and pursue a romantic relationship. 

The pair dance around a sombrero laid on the floor and the woman repeatedly rejects the advances of the man until she is eventually won over by her suitor.

Back in the 19th century, Spanish colonizers were irked by the Mexican hat dance. The dance is relatively innocent, especially by modern standards. However, the Spanish considered it sexually suggestive and did not want Mexicans to do the dance.

This, in turn, led to the dance catching on even more! The Mexican hat dance was the people’s way of rebelling against their colonizers. 

Jesus Gonzalez Rubio created the Mexican hat dance song in 1924. It is often played by live musicians and mariachi bands at events. 

New Year’s Eve 

Mexicans celebrate New Year’s Eve like much of the world. The anticipated arrival of a new year marks new beginnings and opportunities.

Mexicans are warm, family-oriented people so it is probably no surprise that they spend most of New Year’s Eve at home enjoying food, drinks, and conversations with loved ones. However, you will also find firework displays and NYE parties hosted in various cities, especially places that are popular with tourists and Western expats such as Cancun, Tulum, Puerto Vallarta, and Sayulita.

There are also a bunch of fascinating Mexican superstitions around the occasion. For instance:

  • Eating twelve grapes at midnight guarantees good luck for the year ahead

  • Wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve means your new year will be filled with passion

  • Wearing yellow underwear means that you will be lucky in love

  • If you run around the neighborhood dragging an empty suitcase, you will travel a lot in the New Year

New Year’s Day 

New Year’s Day in Mexico is known locally as Año Nuevo. It is a national public holiday with businesses and schools observing it as a day of rest. 

Most tourist attractions and archaeological sites are still open on New Year’s Day but banks, supermarkets, restaurants, and most stores will be closed. Having now spent New Year’s Day in Mexico three years in a row, I can attest to places practically becoming a ghost town.

For most Mexicans, this is something of a rest day after a late night on New Year’s Eve. They may head to the beach, go for a walk, or spend the day having dinner and enjoying extended celebrations with loved ones.  

Mexican traditions

Dia de la Revolución 

Dia de la Revolución (Revolution Day) is an annual public holiday celebrated on the 20th of November each year in Mexico. It marks what was the start of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920.

On this day, parades and civil ceremonies take place throughout the country, complete with floats and lots of music and dancing. Official speeches and ceremonies are hosted in the central square of Mexico City and the country’s largest Revolution Day parade starts from this point. 

A Christmas tree on display in Progreso, Yucatan
A Christmas tree on display in Progreso, Yucatan

Mexican Christmas traditions 

Mexican traditions at Christmas time are a pleasure to see and experience. Official celebrations start on the 16th of December each year and the period between the 16th and the 24th of December is known as “Las Posadas”.

This translates to meaning “inn”. During this time, Mexican children will go from door to door in the neighborhoods singing and asking if there is any room at the inn before singing carols. Mexicans will enjoy “posadas” – festive Christmas parties enjoyed with their family, coworkers, and friends.

It is common to go to multiple posadas throughout the holidays and as well as good food, music, and dancing, festive drinks like ponche and eggnog are enjoyed.

Rompope is essentially Mexican eggnog, although you can find it in a variety of different flavors. Ponche is something of a Mexican version of European mulled wine – warm, red wine is spiced with cinnamon and other flavorings and enjoyed as part of an evening with family.

A tapestry depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe

The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe 

12th December marks the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe and is considered the official start of the Mexican Christmas season and the “posadas”. You will note that pictures of the Virgin start being hung outside of peoples homes in the days leading up to the 12th, and on the evening of the 11th of December, many people will head to local churches to light candles and pray in her honor.

The day celebrates the anniversary of when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in front of an indigenous man named  Juan Diego in 1531.In Mexico City, thousands of pilgrims visit the hilltop Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine to give thanks for the blessings they have received in their lives.

Chiapa de Corzo fountain is the site of the Dance of the Parachicos in Chiapas
Chiapa de Corzo is the site of the Dance of the Parachicos

Dance of the Parachicos

The Dance of the Parachicos is such a valued Mexican tradition that it was inscribed by UNESCO in 2010 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The dance takes place as part of the annual Traditional Great Feast which takes place from the 4th to the 23rd of January every year in the Pueblos Magico of Chiapa de Corzo in Chiapas.

The celebrations honor three Catholic Saints Saint Anthony Abbot, Our Lord of Esquipulas, and Saint Sebastian.

The Dance of the Parachicos is one aspect of a larger celebration. The dance and the dancers respectively are considered a communal offering to the saints.

They dance along a procession route through Chiapa del Corzo, through the day and night, wearing carved traditional wooden masks. Along the way, they carry religious icons and stop at several churches to pay their respects.

It can be an incredible experience to attend the festivities as part of a wider trip to Chiapas. From Chiapa de Corzo, continue onwards to San Cristobal de las Casas, the Sumidero Canyon, and Comitan.

Danza del Venado (deer dance)

If you travel to the northern states of Sinaloa and Sonora, particularly during Easter (Semana Santa), you might be fortunate enough to catch the indigenous “danza del venado” (deer dance) performed by the Yoreme Mayo people. This dance has been a local tradition for more than 300 years as a way to request that the gods grant rain for the farms and crops.

The dance sees men with headdresses in the shapes of deer dance with maracas to folk music. 

Guelaguetza Festival, Oaxaca 

There are more than 68 different indigenous groups living in Mexico, and among them, they speak more than 300 different languages and dialects. The Guelaguetza Festival which is hosted every July in Oaxaca celebrates cultural heritage and differences throughout all Mexican indigenous groups.

Oaxaca state is one of the most indigenous in Mexico, home to six different indigenous groups. (The Zapotec and Mixtec people are among the most prominent and Oaxaca is home to more speakers of indigenous languages than other Mexican states.)

During the Guelaguetza Fest, people from various indigenous groups take to the streets to participate in processions and perform folk dances from their cultures. People wear their traditional attire and often set up stalls selling handicrafts and food items from their region.

During the celebrations, locals will also nominate a young woman to represent Centeotl, the corn goddess. Entrants are not judged on their physical appearances but on their knowledge of their culture and heritage. 

A fair and Christmas tree set up in Merida, Yucatan

Final thoughts on Mexican traditions and festivities

Do you have any additional questions about these Mexican traditions and how to attend them? Alternatively, have you traveled extensively in Mexico, and have some others you would recommend?

Feel free to reach out via the comments below if you need anything. I live in the Yucatan capital of Merida and I am always happy to assist where I can.

Safe travels! Melissa xo


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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