Christmas in Mexico is so much more than just one day. Mexico holiday traditions honoring the country’s rich indigenous and Spanish history start before Christmas and end after New Year’s. It starts with the feast day for Mexico’s beloved icon, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and continues into January.
Keep reading if you’re ready to learn more about Mexico Christmas traditions. Our team here at Remitly has packed this piece full of some of the most well-known Mexican Christmas traditions to bring a little bit of the holiday season to you wherever you are.
December 12: Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe
In Mexico, the holiday season starts soon after Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos. Stores full of sugar skulls and pan de muertos start selling piñatas and poinsettia flowers for Mexican Christmas celebrations instead.
The first national holiday of the season is the Roman Catholic feast day of the La Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico and a powerful symbol of Latino identity in Mexico and other places in Latin America.
This day celebrates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in December 1531 on Tepeyac Hill.
According to the story, Mary told Juan Diego, an indigenous farmer living during the Spanish conquest, to build a giant church in her honor on that spot.
Juan Diego convinced the local bishop the miracle was true by showing him a cloak imprinted with the Virgin Mary’s image. As a result, the community founded the beautiful Basílica of Guadalupe.
This miracle was important in converting Native Americans in Mexico to the Roman Catholic faith. It is a cornerstone of Mexican religious beliefs.
Other Latin American countries and communities in the U.S. celebrate December 12 as well. Pilgrims travel to celebrate the Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe at the Basílica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
After morning Mass, people celebrate with parades, music, and fireworks. Families dress children in traditional Mexican peasant clothes to honor Juan Diego.
People often make offerings of flowers, candles, and food at churches. Many hold an overnight vigil on December 11 to celebrate this special day.
December 16-24: The Advent Season
Many people across Mexico enjoy participating in Las Posadas, which is similar to Christmas caroling in the U.S. Posada means “inn,” and this tradition begins in most places on December 16. Usually led by children, processions go door to door carrying elaborate nativity scenes featuring Joseph and Mary.
The procession sings posada verses, asking for shelter and rest, as Mary did before the birth of the baby Jesus. Neighbors open the doors and respond with verses of the song refusing entry.
Finally, the group reaches the fiesta, where the host welcomes everyone to share Bible passages, Mexican Christmas cookies, and drinks like Christmas punch. Kids can enjoy one of their favorite Mexico holiday traditions — taking a swing at brightly colored piñatas stuffed full of candy and toys.
The festive period of the Posadas generally starts in the evening on December 16 and continues right up until Christmas Eve. This tradition is celebrated across the Americas in many different countries.
Pastorelas are also an entertaining and fun way to celebrate Mexican culture. These Christmas plays are a blend of Aztec and Spanish storytelling traditions.
In true Mexican fashion, the comedic skits tell the story of the nativity but with plenty of satire, double entendres, and political humor. You can see these plays performed throughout Las Posadas in many parts of Mexico.
December 24 & 25: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
The biggest Mexican holiday festivities unfold on Christmas Eve, called Noche Buena or Good Night in Mexico. The celebrations continue into Christmas Day. Here are some Mexican Christmas traditions you may encounter if you’re visiting Mexico on December 24 and 25.
Although Mexico City once displayed the world’s largest Christmas tree in 2009, Christmas trees aren’t a popular Christmas decoration for Mexican families.
Instead of Christmas trees, many people decorate their spaces with a nativity scene or recreation of the holy family. In Mexico, they’re called nacimientos, and they usually include Joseph, the Virgin Mary, Baby Jesus, barn animals, shepherds, and the three wise men.
People start putting these Christmas decorations up in December and leave them on display throughout the festive season, the same way people do Christmas trees in other countries. Paper lanterns are also popular Mexican Christmas decorations that you’ll see displayed everywhere, from Mexico City to rural villages.
Gift-giving is an important part of Christmas in Mexico, and children look forward to receiving gifts during the Christmas holidays.
Many families say that Santa Claus or Santo Clós brings presents to good girls and boys on Christmas Eve. Sometimes, an older family member will dress up as Santa and stop by to say hello to the children.
However, Santa Claus isn’t a universal figure in the Christmas traditions in Mexico. Baby Jesus brings gifts to the good girls and boys in some places.
Whether the infant Jesus Christ or Santa brings the presents, gifts are often left beside the elaborate nativity scenes on display in homes rather than under Christmas trees. Mexican children then discover the gifts on Christmas morning, and everyone gathers to watch the presents being opened.
Piñatas are a very fun and traditional part of the traditional Mexican Christmas celebration. The star-shaped clay or cardboard piñatas are filled with fruit, candy, or other treats.
On Noche Buena or Christmas Day, people don blindfolds and swing at the Christmas piñatas, hoping to be the lucky one who breaks the decoration open to reveal the treats inside.
Mexican Christmas food
Food is a big part of how Mexicans celebrate Christmas, and the main Christmas meal is generally served on Christmas Eve. Some traditional Mexico Christmas food includes:
- Romeritos, boiled seepweed served in a mole sauce with shrimp
- Churros, tube-shaped pastries dusted with cinnamon
- Champurrado, a delicious hot chocolate drink
- Pozole, a stew made with hominy and meat
- Ponche, a Christmas punch made with a mix of fruits
- Ensalada de Nochebuena, a Christmas salad made with seasonal vegetables and fruits
After enjoying Christmas dinner, attending midnight mass is an important Mexican tradition. The mass marks the arrival of Christmas Day when Catholics and other Christians celebrate Baby Jesus.
In Mexico, due to its early hour, the midnight mass is referred to as Misa de Gallo or the mass of the rooster. During the service, people receive communion, listen to the Christmas story, and sing Spanish Christmas carols.
December 28: Los Santos Inocentes
Los Santos Inocentes is a unique part of Christmas in Mexico and occurs on December 28 after the main Christmas celebrations have come and gone.
This date in the Christmas season is a reminder of when King Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children under the age of 2 because he feared the power of the baby Jesus. This event caused Mary and Joseph to flee Bethlehem and seek refuge in Egypt.
In remembrance of the flight into Egypt, Mexicans play pranks and tell intentional yet harmless lies on Los Santos Inocentes. The day is like April Fool’s Day in the U.S. and other countries.
December 31 and January 1: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
The fun of the winter holidays in Mexico continues into the new year, with Christmas celebrations occurring on December 31 and January 1.
On New Year’s Eve, people often attempt to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight for good luck, a custom with roots in Spanish tradition. It’s more difficult than it sounds!
Some other fun Mexico holiday traditions include preparing lentils as part of the New Year’s dishes (also for luck) and wearing red underwear.
January 6: Día de Los Reyes Magos
U.S. traditions like Christmas trees and Santa Claus have recently become more popular in Mexican culture. However, many families prefer Mexican Christmas traditions, like Three Kings Day (los reyes magos). The Three Kings, or three wise men, bring gifts to children on the 12th and final day of Christmas — January 6.
Children write a letter to the three wise men and leave it out on the night of January 5, hoping they will wake up to gifts on Día de Los Reyes Magos.
In addition, families enjoy a delicious ring-shaped sweet bread called Rosca de Reyes (kings’ bread) on Three Kings Day. A figurine of the baby Jesus is baked into the bread.
Everyone takes a slice of the Rosca de Reyes. According to Mexico holiday traditions, whoever finds the baby Jesus will host the final party of the holiday season: Día de la Candelaria.
February 2: Día de la Candelaria
The Día de la Candelaria holiday officially marks the end of the Christmas season in Mexico. The person who found baby Jesus in their Rosca de Reyes on Three Kings Day hosts and prepares tamales for everyone, but it’s also a religious celebration.
The day, the date Jesus was presented to the temple, is usually commemorated with Mass at church followed by a meal.
Although Día de la Candelaria has roots in Christianity, it coincides with the historic Aztec New Year in Mexican history. The occasion brings together indigenous and Spanish traditions.
Some places in Mexico celebrate the day more than others. The biggest Candelaria festivities last an entire week in the town of Tlacotalpan, located in the state of Veracruz. Celebrations include bull runs and feasts featuring local foods.
This date marks the end of the Christmas holiday period for the year. So enjoy those tamales… we hope they’re delicious!
Spread Joy with Mexican Christmas Traditions
From Team Remitly to all our customers with loved ones in Mexico, Feliz Navidad! We hope you have a wonderful Christmas season and a happy New Year.
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