Mexican Customs and Traditions

Article posted 27 September 2019

Mexico is a unique country with its own way of doing things, from festivals to food. A number of Mexican traditions have influenced the entire world and it’s good to get familiar with the culture before you visit. Let’s take a look at a few of these customs and celebrate this traditional, modern, thriving and vibrant land.

Cinco de Mayo

Here’s a quick Spanish language lesson: Cinco de Mayo means May 5th. It celebrates the date when a small Mexican army overcame the odds to defeat Napoleon III’s larger French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

The battle was a morale boost for the nation but Cinco de Mayo has now taken on a wider meaning as a general celebration of Mexican-American culture, particularly in the States. In Mexico itself, you’ll witness military parades or battle reenactments as well as general feasting and celebrating. Head to Puebla for a festival celebrating the arts and local cuisine.

Siestas

Mexicans are sensible people and realise that very little gets done when the sun is high in the sky. Hence the introduction of the siesta courtesy of Spanish tradition. For two or three hours after midday, it’s time for many to have some shut-eye which has actually been shown to have health benefits. For visitors it does mean things can get a little quiet in the early afternoon, but why not embrace the culture and have a little nap yourself?

Día de Muertos

The Day of the Dead is perhaps the most famous Mexican tradition of all. Starting at the end of October and usually lasting for a week, the day itself is a public holiday. Although the date coincides with our Halloween, the tradition actually goes back to an Aztec festival for the goddess Mictecacihuatl.

Día de Muertos is a chance for Mexicans to pay tribute to the dead and it often involves eating, drinking and toasting relatives in colourfully decorated graveyards. For tourists it’s a chance to join in parades, dress up as ghouls and enjoy great food and music with the locals for a few days. Only the Mexicans could make death such a joyous occasion.

Mexican food

Okay, most of us know about burritos and nachos but there is so much more to be explored when it comes to Mexican cookery. Lamb dishes that are made tender and delicious by cooking them in a hole in the ground. The national dish of molé which comes in a thousand varieties. The best pizzas you haven’t tasted yet. You can only really appreciate Mexican cuisine by going there and eating with the Mexicans.

Christmas

So how do Mexicans celebrate Christmas? Don’t expect jolly bearded men in red suits to be walking around as Santa Claus is not overly popular in the country despite his Spanish sounding name. Mexican kids tend to get their presents on January 6th rather than December 25th to celebrate the Three Wise Men finally meeting the baby Jesus. In the lead up to Christmas, you could even witness ‘Las Posadas’ which is a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Children dress up as the biblical figures, borrow a donkey then knock on the doors of neighbours asking for a room at the inn. When they’ve been refused three times there’s a big get together where everyone enjoys a mug of hot chocolate.

Piñatas

We see them at more and more of our own children’s birthdays, but piñatas were popularised by Mexicans, although they may originate in China. An easily breakable container is decorated, filled with goodies and then smashed as part of a celebration. Aztecs used them to honour the gods and Mexican Catholics also adopted the idea. Nowadays they’re less about religion and more about fun.

We’ve only just touched the sides of Mexican customs and traditions. Book a stay at one of our Club Med resorts to soak up the culture yourself. We’ll have the burritos waiting for you!

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