Christmas is a colorful and delightful celebration in Mexico with vibrant decorations, deep traditions, and delicious food and drink. Here are a few ways that you can bring that Mexican spirit of Christmas into your own home, even if you can’t be in Mexico this season.
Host A Posada
Posada is a word for inn in Spanish and the Posadas Navideñas in Mexico are a re-enactment of Joseph and Mary looking for a place to stay before baby Jesus was born. Local posadas usually feature a street procession that reenacts Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn on their way to Bethlehem. The procession will knock at doors along the way while singing traditional posada songs. Joseph and Mary are turned away at each door until they reach the end of the procession where a designated place lets them in to stay and a Christmas party ensues. Even in the U.S., you can find places where they re-enact the traditional posadas (Old Town in San Diego hosts one every year) Today, the word posada can also be used to simply refer to a Christmas party. You can host your own posada with friends and family. Don’t forget the ponche and the star-shaped piñata for the kids!
Add Some Poinsettias
Poinsettias are super prevalent in Mexico during Christmastime. Called noche buenas, they are prolific around town squares, businesses, churches, and other public spaces in Mexico. Legend in Mexico says that there was a very poor girl who had no present to give baby Jesus at Christmas Eve mass. She picked a handful of weeds and when she presented them in the church, they turned into the bright red flowers we know as poinsettias. This is how the poinsettia flower in Mexico became known as Flores de Noche Buena (flowers of Christmas Eve). These pre-lit ones are fun if you want to add a special touch of holiday spirit but don’t want to commit to a real plant.
Tamales are one of the most prevalent dishes for Christmastime in Mexico. Made of a corn masa dough stuffed with a filling and wrapped in corn husks, they are time and labor consuming to prepare, so they tend to be a special holiday food usually made in large batches. Family and friends gather to make them at large parties called tamaladas. The best part is that all the work is done ahead of time, so you can just heat them up and enjoy on the day of. You can host your own tamalada party using the Masienda tamal kit or you can usually order tamales made by someone local if you ask around.
Add Some Mexican Flare to Your Tree
There are lots of easy and beautiful ways to bring Mexico into your home with some ornaments for your Christmas tree. We love the classic tin milagros ornaments which harken back to the traditional Mexican charms used for requests, for protection, and as a source of good luck. Or these fun calaveras ornaments are a perfect way to combine the aesthetic of Día de los Muertos with Christmas. If you’re looking for something more whimsical, try a taco, piñata, sombrero, or Virgen de Guadalupe, ornament to brighten your tree.
Upgrade Your Hot Cocoa
When the weather gets cold, Mexicans warm up with a delicious corn-based chocolate drink called champurrado. The warm beverage is spiced with cinnamon, anise, or vanilla. Ground nuts, orange zest, and egg can also be added to enrich the drink, making for a scrumptious holiday beverage. You could also try the non-chocolate version of the drink, called atole. If you want to be really authentic, you can make your champurrado in a chocolatera jug mixed with a molinillo to make it frothy.
Celebrate on Christmas Eve
In Latin American cultures, Christmas is celebrated after mass on Christmas Eve and the celebrations continue late into the night (or wee hours of the morning). Actual Christmas day is a more quiet day of rest and recovery. Try adding in some Christmas Eve celebrations or traditions like Christmas karaoke or getting in matching Christmas pajamas and watching a holiday movie together.
Make a Rosca de Reyes
Día de Reyes, (or Three Kings Day or the Epiphany) on January 6th is the official closing to the Christmas season in Mexico. Traditionally in years past, it was the day when gifts were given. Children would lay out their shoes on the night of January 5th which would be filled with small trinkets when they woke up the next day. One of the most important traditions of Día de Reyes is eating a rosca de reyes (called a Kings Cake in places like New Orleans where the holiday is celebrated in the U.S.). The round wreath-shaped sweet breads are topped with crystalized fruit and sugar. Most importantly, a small plastic figurine of baby Jesus is baked into every loaf. Whoever is the lucky recipient of the figurine is supposed to make or buy tamales for everyone on Día de Candelaria on February 2nd. While roscas are easy to purchase anywhere in Mexico, they are nearly impossible to find in the U.S. But you can buy your own King Cake mix—complete with figure of baby Jesus to bake in—and celebrate the tradition with your own friends and family.
Think Past Red and Green
While we tend to gravitate toward the classic red and green for Christmas decorations, Mexico is a much more colorful culture. Try changing up some of your traditional for some colorful Mexican decorations, like papel picado or some gorgeous Otomi pieces like stockings or a table runner, in the traditional embroidery style of the indigenous Otomi in central Mexico.
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