Although Mexico’s border joins the USA on its southern border, the customs and traditions differ greatly from the USA. As in other countries many of the traditions are handed down from generation to generation and may be very familiar to native Mexicans but not so to people outside of Mexico. Several of the Mexican holidays that are celebrated through the year is Cinco de Mayo, Day of the Dead, Christmas, and Mexican Independence Day.
Cinco de Mayo is one of the more well-known Mexican holidays, but most people assume that it is celebrated to commemorate Mexico’s independence. Actually it is to commemorate a largely unknown conflict between Mexican patriots and the invading French forces in 1862. Napoleon III set out to expand the French empire by sending the army to occupy Mexico City and install a proxy ruler. The undermanned and under trained Mexican forces under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza repelled 6,000 of Napoleon’s finest troops outside the city of Puebla on May 5. Mexico did win the battle but it was only the beginning of a prolonged occupation of the French that ultimately ended in 1867. As it seems, Cinco de Mayo’s widely celebrated events were brought about by Corona’s marketing efforts.
Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16. The celebration actually begins on the night of September 15 as families gather in town squares to hear the famous grito or shout of independence. In the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato, On Sept. 16, 1810, a revolutionary priest named Miguel Hidalgo addressed a crowd that gathered pronouncing the beginning of the war of independence from Spain. The speech is reenacted every year on the night of the 15th, the president of Mexico, as well as mayors and governors across the country, with the crowd cheering “¡Viva México!” (“Long live Mexico!”) three times in response.
The Day of Dead celebrations in Mexico are not sorrowful events as one might suspect. Mexicans chose to celebrate in a playful and cheerful manner death and the deceased. In the more indigenous towns of Patzcuaro or Oaxaca City, the people celebrate with dancing skeletons and sugar-coated skulls in graveyards on November 1. They celebrate around brightly decorated graves as they share food and laughter. The days leading up to the celebration, families build colorful altars to their deceased with their favorite food and drinks and beautiful yellow and purple flowers. This belief dating back to early Hispanic times involves the idea that the special deceased loved on has lived in a spiritual purgatory and on the Day of the Dead, will come home.
Although Christmas is celebrated widely throughout the world, in Mexico the traditions vary from the American customs of the holiday. Children do not receive presents on Christmas Day and there is not a big interest in Santa Claus. Instead they wait until January 6 and the Dia de los Reyes or Three Kings’ Day which commemorates the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus when they presented him with three gifts. Las Posadas is another Christmas celebration in which there is a reenactment of Mary and Joseph looking for room in an inn. It is celebrated December 16-24. Adults or children dressed up as Mary and Joseph and go from door to door knocking and asking if there is room in the inn. After they are turned away three times, they meet in a central place for hot chocolate and warm bowls of pozole.
These are just a few of the customs and traditions of traditional holidays in Mexico. In the future I will add to this to expand our knowledge of their rich culture and heritage.