It’s that time of the year again for posadas, villancicos, and tamales. That’s right, you guessed it – it’s Christmas time! If you’re Mexican, you know exactly what I’m talking about! If not, don’t worry! We will catch you up on Mexican Christmas traditions, music, and food as we go down our “Mexican Christmas Checklist”.
See how many of your family’s activities match up with Mexican traditions this holiday season!
Mexican Christmas Checklist: How many of these traditions do you practice?
1. You go to mass on Christmas Eve → Vas a la misa de Nochebuena.
Mass, or misa, is a big part of Mexican Christmas culture. Most Mexicans are Catholic, and mass is a nice way to gather the family, get dressed up, and sing praise (alabanza) to Jesus!
2. You eat at grandma’s house → Comes en la casa de la abuela.
Abuela’s house is the place to eat on Christmas. All the generations pile in and await their impending food coma.
3. You have to sing “las posadas”→ Tienes que cantar las posadas.
Las posadas, or “the inns”, is 9-day Mexican tradition that celebrates the biblical journey that Joseph and Mary made to Bethlehem looking for a safe place to give birth to Jesus. The hardcore Christmas families will have parties every night from December 16th to the 24th in different homes.
As per tradition, guests will “ask for a place to stay” (pedirposadas) through song, asking the hosts to come in. Tíos and tías (uncles and aunts) provide traditional “posadas” food and piñatas for the kids (and some adults)!
4. You break a Christmas piñata → Rompes una piñata navideña.
Did I mention piñatas? It wouldn’t be a Mexican party without a good ole piñata. Christmas piñatas are in the shape of festive stars (not donkeys) and filled with candies and toys for children to enjoy!
5. You sing lullabies to “the Child God” → Arrullas al Niño Dios.
If your abuela doesn’t have a Nativity (Nacimiento) scene in her house, is she even Mexican? This part is crucial! Nativity scenes are very common in Mexican homes, from miniature to life-size renditions of the stable where Mary gave birth to baby Jesus. The whole family sings lullabies to Jesus while children rock him back and forth in a blanket (manta), thanking him and welcoming him to the world. It’s a whole Christmas production!
6. You play Secret Santa → Juegas Amigo Secreto.
Some call it intercambio (exchange). Before Christmas, everyone anonymously picks the name of someone else in the family to buy a present. At some point during Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) the exchange happens, and everyone unwraps their gifts!
7. You eat non-stop tamales → Comes tamales sin parar.
If you love tamales, Christmas Eve is your night! There is delicious food in abundance, but the tamales, a typical Mesoamerican dish made of dough that is steamed in a corn husk, always steal the show.
- Red tamales (pork and salsa roja)
- Green tamales (cheese and salsa verde)
- Sweet tamales (pineapple or guava or chocolate)
- Mole tamales (hot sauce with cacau, the Mexican curry)
Ever wonder what’s on the table of a Brazilian Christmas dinner? Check it out!
8. You eat leftovers on Christmas day → Comes recalentado el 25.
For Mexicans, the 25th is also known as national leftovers (recalentado) day. The whole family gathers once again for eating, singing, and more eating.
9. You listen to Christmas music all month → Escuchas villancicos todo el mes.
Mexican Christmas songs are called villancicos. Here are the top oldies that are sure to play during Christmas!
- El Burrito Sabanero
- Campana Sobre Campana
- Los Peces en el Rio
- Ha Nacido el Nino
- Noche de Paz
- El Camino que Lleva a Belen
- Vamos Pastores Vamos
Get Excited for a Mexican Christmas this Holiday Season!
How did you do on the checklist? If there’s something your family practices that wasn’t listed, we want to hear about it! Let us know in the comments below.
At a loss for Secret Santa ideas? Give the gift of sharpening your Spanish skills on-the-go with the Pimsleur Program!