5 Mexico Holiday Traditions from Before Christmas to After the New Year

Mexico holiday traditions: group of friends breaking a piñata

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 Years. It all starts with the feast day for Mexico’s beloved icon, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

December 12: Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe

Mexico holiday traditions: portrait of the Basilica of 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 poinsettias instead.

The first national holiday of the season is the Roman Catholic feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico and a powerful symbol of Mexican identity.

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. A procession, usually led by a child, goes door to door carrying a nativity scene 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 in to share Bible passages, food, and drinks. Kids can enjoy one of their favorite Mexico holiday traditions—taking a swing at brightly colored piñatas, stuffed full of candy and toys.

Posadas generally occur nightly from December 16 right up until Christmas Eve. This tradition is celebrated across the Americas in many different countries.

This video shows a great depiction of typical neighborhood posadas in Mexico City:

Pastorelas are also an entertaining and fun way to celebrate Mexican culture. These Christmas-season plays are a blend of Aztec and Spanish storytelling tradition.

In true Mexican fashion, the comedic skits tell the story of the nativity, but with plenty of satire, double entendres, and political humor.

Here’s a bit of history on pastorelas (in Spanish) as well as a fun example of what they look like:

December 25 & January 1: Mexico Holiday Traditions on Christmas Day & New Year

Christmas Manger decor

The biggest Mexican holiday festivities unfold on the night of December 24, Noche Buena. People attend midnight Mass or simply gather for family celebrations as they await midnight and the arrival of Christmas Day.

Some Christmas traditions include:

  • Nativity scenes, or nacimientos: Instead of a Christmas tree, many people use re-creations of the holy family to decorate their spaces. In homes, Santa Claus often leaves children’s Christmas gifts by the nacimiento.
  • Piñatas: Christmas piñatas are a very fun and traditional way to celebrate the season throughout Mexico. The star-shaped clay or cardboard piñatas are filled with fruit, candy, or other treats.
  • Mexican holiday foods: Families enjoy tamales, romeritos, churros, champurrado, pozole, ponche, and more at Christmas.

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 become more popular in Mexican culture in recent years.

But many families still 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, in hopes that they will wake up to gifts on Día de Reyes.

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. 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

Tamales con atole

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, which marks the date on which 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. The occasion brings indigenous and Spanish traditions together.

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 Mexico Holiday 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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